Ho Cheuk-tin, a filmographer and founder of the political satire group Mocking Jer, says the group set out to spread local consciousness (本土意識) through producing parody videos during the Umbrella Movement. Their first video, uploaded on YouTube in December 2014, is a derivative work based on the 1990s local gangster movie Teddyboy. It mocks excessive police use of force against the Occupy protesters by parodying “black police” as gangsters.
“There were too many junk videos from Hong Kong Youtubers like how to date girls and eat noodles. I quite despised them so we started Mocking Jer. Filming is what film school graduates are good at,” says the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (APA) graduate.
Ho and his fellow APA graduate Neo Yau Hok-sau made more videos about the Umbrella Movement after the success of the Young and Dangerous parody. Then last year, both had a chance to express ideas of local consciousness in Ten Years.
“During the production of Ten Years, I figured Hong Kong independence is possible,” says Ho who was the assistant director in one of the film’s vignettes, Self-immolator.
The segment starts with a young social movement leader who is imprisoned for violating Article 23 of the Basic Law and dies after a hunger strike in jail. One of his supporters then sets themself alight outside the British Consulate to draw attention to the independence idea.
Ho says many actors shied away from the production because of the theme of independence. “Many ran away when they saw the script in casting,” he says.
Banned in the Mainland, the movie was awarded best film of 2015 at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Ho thinks it heralds the rise of local consciousness-themed movies and shows that films with local themes have influenced people’s views and the public discourse.
Film is not the only medium being used to boost local consciousness in the city. Lyricist Leung Pak-kin aims to “awaken” society through popular music.
Although he is not a “hardcore localist”, Leung has been trying to create resonance with local issues through his lyrics. He started writing lyrics with a local rock band Kolor seven years ago.
“Rock ‘n’ roll has its origins in politics, like the American rock band Rage Against the Machine. Bands should express things that have to do with the society, complementing singers who fear being banned by the Mainland,” he says.
Leung’s lyrics for Kolor cover various local issues such as parallel trading, filibustering in the Legislative Council and the wealth gap. He believes Cantopop should have a wide scope, rather than be limited to the senitmental love songs that dominate the local industry.
As a child of the 1970s, Leung has witnessed changes in the extent to which pop songs can influence society. Sam Hui, known as Hong Kong’s “God of Songs” produced Cantopop songs with strong local themes, such as Could Not Care Less About 1997, but Leung says people did not pay much attention to the issues in the songs back then.
“As we actually feel the pain from the pressing issues now, songs with social themes will receive a much wider response,” Leung says.
Leung says it is interesting to see how writer and audience play their part in a game to create meaning. The lyricist may use similes and metaphors in the songs, while the listener will deconstruct these to interpret the lyrics.
“Like Endless by Supper Moment is now a song of social movement while A Brighter Future by Beyond is like the anthem of Hong Kong. Every song has its destiny,” says Leung.
Like other locally conscious creative artists, he hopes his work will spread a message about Hong Kong’s values and have resonance with the young people who will help shape the city’s destiny.
Edited by Tiffany Tsim
Correction: An earlier version of this story said we surveyed 504 people, of these there were 350 effective responses. All figures shown referred to the 350 respondents and the copy has now been amended to show this. We apologise for any confusion.