Controversial Hong Kong movie wins 'Best Film' award

[HONG KONG] A controversial movie about the future of Hong Kong won the top prize at the city's film awards Sunday, after being a local box office hit but antagonising Beijing over its portrayal of the semi-autonomous territory in 2025.

"Ten Years" scooped the "Best Film" prize at the Hong Kong Film Awards, following a short cinema release that was widely believed to have been curtailed for political reasons.

The film is made up of a series of five vignettes that tap residents' worst fears for the future of the southern Chinese city as Beijing's grip tightens.

The film had only a short general release, while some cinemas refused to screen it altogether, and it raised hackles on the mainland with China's state-run Global Times newspaper describing it as "totally absurd" and a "virus of the mind".

"The meaning of this prize is that it shows Hong Kong still has hope. It reminds us that we could have courage to be creative. I would like to thank everyone who has watched it," said the film's producer Andrew Choi after the awards ceremony.

Major China-based TV channels pulled out from broadcasting the awards on the mainland, with the nomination of "Ten Years" widely believed to be the reason.

But one of the film's directors, Ng Ka-leung, told reporters that he was not concerned by Beijing's opinion, only what his fellow Hong Kongers thought of the film.

"If you ask me what Beijing might feel towards us, I would say it doesn't really matter. The movie was made for Hong Kong people. We are open-minded to anyone who likes it or not. We just hope that Hong Kong people can share our feelings. We would like people to think about the future of Hong Kong," he said.

The chairman of the Hong Kong Film Awards Derek Yee acknowledged the controversy that has arisen from the film's nomination.

"President Roosevelt said one thing: the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," Mr Yee said before announcing the winner of the "Best Film" category.

Since its release at the end of December, the movie, made for just HK$500,000 (S$87,023), has earned an unexpected HK$6 million, but its run stopped when it was still playing to packed theatres.

On Friday thousands flocked to watch the film at various community screenings across the city, as the buzz around the movie continued long after its cinema release ended.

The five part film, each directed by different people, examine different elements of a future Hong Kong, where there is growing anxiety that Beijing is eroding the freedoms enshrined in the 1997 handover deal between Britain and China.

In one, young children in military uniforms prowl the street looking for subversive behaviour, another shows the erosion of the local language Cantonese.

In the final short, a protester self-immolates outside the British consulate - a scene that moved many viewers to tears.

Hong Kong cop thriller "Port of Call" also won big at the film awards, scooping seven prizes including best actor for singer Aaron Kwok and best actress for newcomer Jessie Li.


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