Controversial Hong Kong indie film, #TenYears, wins Asian film award

Controversial Hong Kong indie film, <em>#TenYears</em>, wins Asian film award
An independent film depicting a dystopian Hong Kong in the year 2025 won top honors at the Hong Kong Film Awards this weekend. The film, Ten Years, reflects the fears Hong Kongers have about the effects of reunification with mainland China. In five vignettes, the film suggests oppression familiar to readers of George Orwell’s 1984 will be normal, and that the freedoms present-day Hong Kong enjoys will slowly be eroded away. Needless to say, the film is banned on the mainland. According to the BBC, censors have blocked reports referring to the film’s award. Limited screenings are planned for the USA, and other countries. Produced on a HK$500,000 budget, the film has made HK$6 million so far, despite HK theaters limiting or canceling screenings, fearing government interference. No such interference occurred, however. Hong Kong citizens have been increasingly worried that the mainland government will exert more control over the special autonomous region (SAR), despite formal agreement in 1997 of the “one country, two systems” policy. That agreement, reached as Britain returned its former colony to China, assured that the mainland government would not interfere with the politics and laws already established in Hong Kong. But mainland authorities have so far ...

HK indie dystopian film outperforms Star Wars VII on opening night, disappears

HK indie dystopian film outperforms <em>Star Wars VII</em> on opening night, disappears
KOTA KINABALU, SABAH, MALAYSIA — An independent film set in a dystopian Hong Kong of 2025 opened last month, and outsold the latest Star Wars episode. Then, it quickly disappeared from theatres, probably because it’s very critical of the mainland government. Ten Years (十年 shi nian) consists of five shorts, all set ten years in the future, when Cantonese has been outlawed and an oppressive government rules with 1984-like efficiency. One short depicts the self-immolation of a protester, which has been a common form of protest on the mainland by Tibetan and other dissidents. There’s no evidence the Beijing government has banned the film in Hong Kong. But its disappearance may be a form of “self-censorship” by theatre operators unwilling to deal with government censors. Links for further information: CNN Jan. 20 Radio Free Asia Feb. 10 Wikipedia entry Filmmakers’ interview with HK magazine TimeOut

Cool SF short features Rosetta comet mission

Sometime in the far future, humans develop the power to build worlds. Game of Thrones fans will recognize Aiden Gillen as the teacher. His apprentice is played by Aisling Franciosi. The Rosetta orbiter is still following Comet 67P on its way around the Sun. The Philae lander has an electrical starvation problem. It successfully landed on the sunny spot chosen as its best location, but it bounced off the surface of the comet twice and landed in a shady area that gets only 1.5 hours of sunlight every Earth day. That’s not enough sunlight to recharge Philae’s batteries, so the washing-machine-sized probe ran through its primary scientific tasks as quickly as possible before it went dark. Philae was able to drill into the surface and analyze the composition of the sample. It relayed that data to Rosetta, which then forwarded it to Earth. Planetary scientists are intensely interested in the results, as it could provide clues about the formation of the solar system and Earth. For its part, Rosetta has discovered that comets stink. Literally.

The first trailer of my ‘big’ movie debut 2

The first trailer of my 'big' movie debut
JISHOU, HUNAN — Back in September, I was called upon to play the part of a foreign visitor to Xiangxi Prefecture in a movie, 《一次性爱上2》 (Yi Ci Xing Ai Shang 2 — Love at First Sight 2)*. The first trailer for this “micro-movie,” a 45-minute web-only production, has just been released. Unfortunately, there’s no embedding options, so here’s the LINK. The link will take you a Chinese video sharing site. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see it with no troubles. Meanwhile, I’ll try to download it and see if I can host from my own site or post it on YouTube. There are no English subtitles yet, but there’s not much dialogue in the trailer, anyway. It’s a movie about romance, drama, spectacular scenery and the love of music. ——— * Interestingly enough, the Chinese phrase 一次性爱上 can be translated as “Love at First Sight,” but it can also be used to describe a one-night stand or a sexual escapade. This second possibility led to some interesting comments from my Chinese Internet friends. I had to assure them I was not acting in a porn movie, which, by the way, are illegal in China. So, I figure they were not ...

It’s a wrap (for me, at least) 1

It's a wrap (for me, at least)
JISHOU, HUNAN — My first brush with Chinese film making has ended. Now I’m waiting to see the results, like everyone else. My services were needed for only three days. I’ve already related the first two days’ events. The last day was Tuesday, coincidentally the last day before a week-long break for the National Holiday. First off, consider that my schedule that day began with four hours of classes, and ended with four hours of classes. Sandwiched between these sessions of Oral English was that day’s filming in Aizhai and Dehang and a very late lunch at 3 pm. A really long day. Along the way, I got a better idea of my role in the movie. One scene on Tuesday had me in hiking clothes in Dehang, coming across a local woman drumming in the local Miao style in a canyon. This scene happened some years in the past. At the time, my character, Jason, was moved to the point of tears and wanted to meet this woman, but she refused to see me. I left disheartened. My other scene filmed on Tuesday was in the Ford used earlier. Jason is in the back seat looking at the video ...

Kodachrome 64 is 86’d 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Kodak has decided to cease production after 74 years of its famous slide film, Kodachrome 64. Basically, it’s time to move on, the company says. Photogs are abandoning film for digital cameras, and anyway Kodak makes other films that are easier to process, like Ektachrome. (Only one lab in the USA still processes Kodachrome 64, but it will stop that service next year. Diehard fans can still buy Kodachrome 64 from the lab’s remaining stock.) Paul Simon immortalized Kodachrome in his song of the same name, but it was a favorite of photographers for decades before for its fine grain and excellent color reproduction. Steve McCurry, for example, used Kodachrome 64 to capture this famous portrait of a young Afghan woman for National Geographic in 1985. (Click on the image to see it fullsize.) Newer films, like Ektachrome, are faster (more sensitive to light) and are easier to process than Kodachrome 64 (the 64 refers to the film speed or light sensitivity, ASA 64). As popular as it once was among users, lately it has accounted for less than 1% of Kodak’s film sales. So it makes sense to retire it. Kodachrome’s demise, though, is another example ...

Recommendations: Joanna Wang and “Not One Less” 5

FENGHUANG, HUNAN — So, there I was in a car, coming back from another trip to Fenghuang, when Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” emanated from the CD player. Two things make the soundtrack for this part of my life noteworthy. I was not heading back to Manhattan, USA, but to Jishou, China. (And, no, I was not feeling homesick, though the song is one of my favorites.) More importantly, the singer was not fellow Long Islander Billy Joel, but a woman with a soothing, sultry voice. Oh, I was hooked! After listening to the rest of the tracks, I had to ask who she was. Wáng Rùolín (王若琳), also known as Joanna Wang, is a Taiwan-based singer/songwriter in the Norah Jones mold. So far she has cut two CDs, and if her music gets more US airplay, Wang might just give Jones a run for her money. (Like Paul McCartney, one of her idols, Wang plays guitar left-handed, as you can see in this photo). The two women have similar singing styles — a casual, effortless sound, as if each one were singing just to you, one person at a time. (I am dating myself here, but Astrud ...
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