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Sap Nin

Entry updated 5 April 2019. Tagged: Film.

["Ten Years"] Film (2015 Hong Kong). Ten Years Studio. Directed by Ng Ka-leung, Jevons Au, Chow Kwun-wai, Wong Fei-Pang, Kwok Zune, starring Peter Chan, Wong Ching, Lau Ho-Chi, Leung Kin-Ping, Liu Kai-chi, Siu Hin Ng. Screenplay by various hands. 104 minutes. Colour.

An anthology piece of five Near-Future Dystopian vignettes about life in Hong Kong in the year 2025, made for an impressively low budget. All are conceived as Satires or meditations on the undermining of the Hong Kong Basic Law (1990), the 69-page document issued by the People's Republic of China to guarantee the freedoms and way of life of the former British colony until the year 2047. Recurring themes include the attitudes and opportunities of a generation of Hong Kong youth that has grown up with no knowledge of the time before the 1997 Handover, but also the assertion that being "from Hong Kong" cannot be reduced to the simplistic ethnic parameters implied by much Party rhetoric; characters include a mixed-race couple and immigrants who nevertheless self-identify as locals (see Race in SF). Linguistics is demonstrated as a touchstone of identity in "Dialect", wherein a taxi driver (Leung Kin-ping) is prevented from working because he speaks Cantonese rather than Mandarin, the official language. His frustrations evoke a long stand-off between local residents and mainland economic migrants, but also artfully incorporate the political applications of Technology: he loses one fare when his Mandarin-speaking GPS is unable to understand him.

Most of the stories, however, veer significantly deeper into agitprop territory, depicting the dominance, inadvertent or otherwise, of Hong Kong's seven million inhabitants by the billion-plus mainlanders as an expression of the dramatic tensions of Great and Small. "Local Egg" deals both with the destruction of small farms by big business, and the suppression of free speech through underhand tactics. Grocer Sam (Liu Kai-chi) is appalled to find his son throwing eggs at a proscribed bookstore, but mildly impressed that his son claims to be warning targets of approaching actions by bullies. In "Season of the End", two protesters attempt to salvage objects from bulldozed homes. The film, however, is dominated by two more drastic pieces, including "Extras", in which two societal drop-outs are hired by government officials to stage a terrorist attack in order to justify a new security law (see Crime and Punishment). The drama focuses not only on their false-flag act, but on their naivety in believing they will not be sacrificed by their clients to hide the evidence. "Self-immolator" depicts the death of a hunger striker (the first convicted under the new law), the violence that erupts over related protests, and the loopholes that the authorities find in the Basic Law allowing them to bring in the military. It is literally the most incendiary of the stories, not only for its depiction of riotous protest, but for the use of self-immolation as a dramatic device, sure to evoke parallels with similar protests in real-world Tibet.

The film's coda ends with a blatant challenge, echoing Robert A Heinlein's "If This Goes On –" (February-March 1940 Astounding; rev in Revolt in 2100 coll 1953): that this is only a possible future, and that there is still time to change it. Reaction was predictably polarized, with the film's supporters claiming it took more money than Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (in a single cinema), while attackers denied it achieved any significant box office returns. The South China Morning Post called it "a reminder of the power of independent, intelligent filmmaking as a vehicle for social and political critique", while the Global Times derided it as "totally absurd" on grounds of inaccurate Prediction and condemned it as "a virus of the mind." The film was paid the ultimate accolade by the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, which refused to broadcast the Hong Kong Film Awards live the following year, seemingly out of fear that Sap Nin might win something. It won as Best Film.

This film's success inspired several imitations, namely the similar spin-offs Ten Years Thailand (2018) Shi Nian Taiwan (2018) and Jūnen ["Ten Years Japan"] (2018). [JonC]

see also: Optimism and Pessimism; Imperialism.


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