Directors – Leung Ming Kai, Kate Reilly – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 77m
Four stories from contemporary Hong Kong comprise three dramas and a closing documentary segment – plays Focus Hong Kong 2023 on Saturday, June 24th at 3.30pm
An anthology of four stories from contemporary Hong Kong – three fiction and one documentary – showing the city’s diversity: Forbidden City, Toy Stories, Yuen Yeung and It’s Not Going To Be Fun.
Forbidden City features an old lady (Leong Cheok-mei) and her immigrant carer (Mia Mungil). The first time ‘grandma’ mentions that her son is now a big shot but used – as the not quite right subs put it –to scratch his wee-wee when he was young, it’s funny. The second and third times, it becomes obvious she has dementia and keeps repeating the same phrases over and over. Mia initially refuses to accompany her charge to a reunion in town, but after taking a video of the old lady swearing that she won’t take her carer to her son’s office (“if I do that he’ll fire me,” the carer says), she agrees to accompany her on the bus into town.
Toy Stories concerns two brothers (Zeno Koo, Lam Yiu-sing) whose mother (who we never meet) runs a toy shop which she’s thinking of selling and for which she may have a buyer. The younger son confides in the elder that he’s lost his job and was hoping to work in the so for a while. They exchange memories and discuss specific toys which often have highly personal, family stories attached to them.
Yuen Yeung is a drink made by mixing coffee and tea and has its roots in British colonialism when it was used to get workers at the docks to be more efficient. Or so says secondary school teacher John (Gregory Wong) when he meets North American Ruth (director Kate Reilly) on her first day there as an English teacher. She doesn’t speak (much) Cantonese, so most of the dialogue is in English (with English subtitles!) as over the winter term the pair try out assorted Hong Kong cafés and restaurants.
Closing story It’s Not Going To Be Fun is the documentary of the batch. In between campaigning for the Pan-Democrats (i.e. unsympathetic to the line-toeing, pro-China party) talking on the streets and handing out fliers about creating new tenant building management groups in Sham Shui Po district and introducing us to her manager and default backup candidate Star, Jessica Lam Sin-tung relaxes at home with her two cats, shows off a music video she’s in and demonstrates her barista skills in the restaurant where she works.
The first story is somewhat slight, if touching. The second is the weakest of the four as the two boys talk without much to say: watching them eat noodles is about as exciting a it gets. The third story, with lots of titbits about varieties of local cuisine, draws you in rather more effectively than its two predecessors and you want it to go on longer (which probably means the length is about right. The final story with its sub-currents of youthful optimism about political change is refreshing with the candidate’s home life (and cats) proving a welcome respite to a section which might have been (but isn’t) too right on for its own good.
Mildly engaging if a little on the lightweight side.
Memories to Choke On, Drinks to Wash Them Down plays Focus Hong Kong 2023 on Saturday, June 24th at 3.30pm, followed by a satellite Q&A with directors Leung Ming-kai and Kate Reilly, info here.
It previously played online in Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th 2021.