Before the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement (now in its fifth week) occupied business districts in Hong Kong, the former British colony visibly expressed its desire for autonomy from Beijing under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle with annual vigils of the June 4, 1989 military crackdown at Tiananmen Square; annual marches on the anniversary of the July 1, 1997 handover; demonstrations in 2009 and 2010 against a high-speed rail system that would have literally established a closer link Hong Kong and China; and demonstrations in 2012 against the Hong Kong government’s plan to implement the Moral and National Education (德育及國民教育 / 德育及国民教育) curriculum that was seen as sympathetic to the Chinese Communist Party.
Hong Kongers of the post-Handover generation who have never lived under British rule are at the forefront of this fearless assertion of political and cultural identity. In his film Lessons in Dissent (未夠秤 / 未够秤), Matthew Torne looks at this generation with admiration and support through profiles of two youth who have taken up activism to defend and promote their ideals:
Joshua Wong (黄之鋒 / 黄之锋), founder and leader of student group Scholarism (學民思潮 / 学民思潮), organized the protests against pro-Beijing curriculum when he was 15 years old and is now one of the most recognizable faces of the Umbrella Movement. He was profiled by The New York Times and penned an op-ed for the paper.
Ma Wan-kei (馬雲祺 / 马云祺 ), nicknamed “Ma Jai” (馬仔 / 马仔) dropped out of school to dedicate himself to activism. Taking a different path from Wong, he avoids the media spotlight and advocates his principles by working for the radical League of Social Democrats (會民主連線 / 社会民主连线) political party.
Filmed over 18 months, the film actually follows Wong and Ma’s efforts against the Moral and National Education plan just over two years ago. It’s timeliness to current events is a stroke of good fortune that will bring an awareness and appreciation of the future parents, teachers, workers, and leaders of Hong Kong.
New America NYC, in collaboration with ChinaFile, will screen the film on November 6 with Torne in attendance for a Q&A and discussion with
- Bay Fang, Senior Fellow, International Security Program, New America
- Isaac Stone Fish, Asia Editor, Foreign Policy
- La Frances Hui, Film Curator and Associate Director of Cultural Programs, Asia Society
Thursday, November 6, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
New America NYC, 199 Lafayette Street Suite 3B
Free, but RSVP required
Additional screenings are scheduled in
San Jose, CA, 11/9/14
20th Aldeburgh Documentary Festival, UK, 11/15/14
Prince Charles Cinema, London, 11/18/14
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details or if you would like to host a screening.
ChinaFile editor and Senior Fellow at Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations Susan Jakes provides a brief background on Hong Kong’s culture of dissent in her introduction to Asia Society Film Curator and Associate Director of Cultural Programs La Frances Hui’s interview Torne.
Radio Television Hong Kong profiles Torne (in English and Cantonese with Chinese subtitles)
Torne’s interview with Commercial Radio, Breakfast Show (in English and Cantonese)
Photo and film poster courtesy of Matthew Torne