Hong Kong movie beats Star Wars ticket sales

Photo from independent film called "10 Years"

(CW) – “Star Wars” has set a new all-time box-office record but at one theater in Hong Kong, a low-budget, independent movie actually beat “The Force Awakens” in ticket sales.

The film, set in the Hong Kong of the future, portrays dark new realities. Its directors hope it will inspire more people in the former British colony to take a more active role in shaping the city’s future.

Abductions by authorities. Children intimidating shop owners. A self-immolation. “10 years” imagines a dystopian future for Hong Kong in the year 2025. Highlighting concerns its directors have through five short films.

The scenarios are fiction, the directors say, but have echoes of events playing out in real life one film shows “youth guards,” patrolling neighborhood shops, looking for violations.

Director Ka-Leung Ng said, “My story portrays an environment where everything is banned. Like, you can’t use certain words or read certain books. Audiences laugh at these scenes – because they think it’s ridiculous. But I want to tell people, these ridiculous things are not far away from actually happening.”

Earlier this month, thousands protested in Hong Kong after five men who sold books critical of Beijing disappeared in late 2015. At least two are in mainland China. One issued an eyebrow raising confession to a crime that happened more than a decade ago on state TV. Freedom of expression became one of the central themes in the demonstration.

Another story focuses on language and the problems many Cantonese-speakers, the dominant dialect in Hong Kong, have with Mandarin, China’s official national dialect.

In “10 years,” taxi drivers who don’t pass a Mandarin test face a ban from working in certain busy districts.

Director Au Man-Kit said, “It’s like taxi driver was helpless and couldn’t change the situation. But the story is situation 10 years from now and my aim is to show it to audiences right now in the present. Will we become hopeless like the taxi driver? It depends on what choices we make now.”

In another scene, tanks from the people’s liberation army roll into Hong Kong’s central business district to crackdown on protesters. The scenes sure to remind people in Hong Kong of the umbrella movement protests in 2014, when local police clashed with protesters. Beijing, however, never sent in troops.

Hong Kong’s top official, Chief Executive C.Y. Leung has continually vowed that the government will to run its own affairs independent of Beijing.

“Hong Kong people administrating Hong Kong, and a high degree of autonomy in accordance with the Basic Law. Our position never changed on that issue,” said Leung.

However, the directors argue-people in Hong Kong should take nothing for granted when it comes to politics.

Director Kwun-wai Chow said, “The fact that the movie can be shown in Hong Kong proves that things aren’t as bad as portrayed in the movie. We should be grateful that we still have freedom of speech and we have to cherish that, we need to protect it.”

“We aren’t looking for change to happen immediately after people take action, but we hope more people will think if we do something right now that will contribute to a bigger change in the future,” said Ng.

A future, these directors say, they hope will be very different from what their film depicts.

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