By Godric Leung
Young people in Hong Kong have been in turmoil since the student protesters of the Umbrella Movement in 2014 failed to achieve any of their goals. In his documentary, The Taste of Youth, local filmmaker Cheung King-wai explores the issues confronting the city’s youth and the generation gap between kids and parents in today’s society.
Award winning documentary maker Cheung, 48, chose his nine teenage participants with great care. They were selected from a performing choir of 10,000 young people, all members of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups in 2014. The common link is their musical background, although they come from every section of society, including single parent families and new immigrants. Cheung explains that he chose a wide sample to get diverse views. To this end, his interviewees do indeed express diverse opinions, some of which are quite interesting.
When asked about her dream job, 10-year-old Nicole answers that she would like to be an artist. Cheung, as interviewer, points out that an artist may not have freedom of expression. She replies that nevertheless, she is free to choose. “Even a slave has his freedom to look up to the sky,” she insists. This illustrates one of the film’s main themes, the meaning of freedom.
Lack of freedom has many faces. Vicky’s parents will not allow their teenage daughter, a high school student to study art at university. They see her working in a profession with solid financial prospects. Her silent response speaks louder than words.
This is an ambitious project and almost succeeded in giving an insightful picture of Hong Kong youth. It is full of revealing anecdotes and genuine reactions. The skillful use of music serves as an effective device to link the interviews together.
It is a brave and sincere attempt, but Cheung tries to pack too much into the 80 minute documentary. This could still be rectified by a fresh look at the editing.
The Taste of Youth at the 2016 Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF). Sunday, April 3, 5 p.m: Sha Tin Town Hall.
In Cantonese, English subtitles.