Hong Kong’s best film of 2015 will be featured at a film festival in New York today (July 4), but the city government isn’t promoting it.
The dystopian film Ten Years, which was awarded “best film” at the Hong Kong Film Awards in April, will premiere in North America at the New York Asian Film Festival tonight (July 4), at 9pm EDT at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center.
The independent hit, depicting a bleak future for Hong Kong under communist rule, is one of ten Hong Kong films to be shown at the film festival, which is in its 15th year.
However, in a press release about Hong Kong’s presence at the festival sent out by the city government, Ten Years was not mentioned. Instead, the release listed the nine other features, which were sponsored by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York, the Hong Kong government’s overseas office.
“I don’t know if Ten Years has become an unspeakable film, just as the film cannot be mentioned in mainland China,” Jevons Au, one of the film’s directors, told Quartz.
Ten Years became a hit in Hong Kong earlier this year, beating the new Star Wars film in the box office at on theater in February. The film garnered attention from Beijing, where state paper Global Times trashed the film, calling it “absurd.” Later, when the title was awarded best film at the Hong Kong Film Awards, China pretended it did not exist.
“I don’t want to speculate on the meaning behind this, but the government owes Hong Kong citizens an explanation,” said Au. Crime thriller Trivisa, which Au co-directed, is included in the Hong Kong press release.
Samuel Jamier, director of the New York Asian Film Festival, told Quartz that the exclusion of Ten Years from the Hong Kong component had to do with timing. The festival submitted a proposal of Hong Kong films to the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York in January and the agreement was finalized in February. “At the time, the lineup didn’t include Ten Years,” he said.
The decision to include Ten Years in the festival only came after the title was awarded best film at the Hong Kong Film Awards in April, he said, and the festival didn’t seek additional approval from the Hong Kong economic group.
“We didn’t seek extra funding for this, or re-approach HKETO in New York to re-discuss the agreement that we had already reached with them,” he said.
Ten Years was warmly welcomed by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Japan in March at the Osaka Asian Film Festival, before it was awarded “best film” in Hong Kong.
“I’m a bit disappointed,” said Au, who is in New York for the premiere. “But the media seems to be able to grasp the messages behind the film. I hope audiences will like our film.”
The Hong Kong government’s Information Services Department said the release was issued by the Economic and Trade Office in New York and it had to wait for the New York office’s answers.
Other Hong Kong films at the New York Asian Film Festival include the romance drama She Remembers, He Forgets, and comedy Mobfathers. The festival runs until July 9. The screening of Ten Years has been sold out.