Netflix Original movie 'Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower' is intense and personal [Review]

Netflix Original movie 'Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower' is intense and personal [Review]

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Make a nice cup of tea for this one.
Photo: Netflix/YouTube

Joshua Wong Chi-fung. Hong Kong - and the world - watched him grow from the leader of a student protest to one of the most recognised faces in the Hong Kong political arena, and a symbol of Occupy Central/the Umbrella Movement/the Hong Kong democracy movement. Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower sums up his journey and the most turbulent five years in our city’s history since the 1967 leftist riots in a Netflix original production that will be watched all over the world.

As this is a documentary, there are no unexpected new or interesting revelations for anyone familiar with the events that took place in Hong Kong over the past several years. All director Joe Piscatella did was splice together details and events into a neat little package; these include the protests against the Moral and National Education curriculum in 2011 and 2012, the start and end of the Umbrella Movement in 2014, the five "vanished" booksellers of 2015, and last year's Legco election.  

Interspersed throughout the footage of rallies and speeches are interviews with recognisable faces, including - of course - Joshua himself, Agnes Chow-ting, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Derek Lam Shun-hin, and Benny Tai Yiu-ting, among others. This creates a sense of realism, familiarity and personal connection for the viewer, regardless of whether they lived through the events.


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This narrative of one boy, now man, and his group of allies - fighting for what is right against an unjust government, beginning with an uphill struggle, culminating in a grand standoff and ending in disappointment and, perhaps, hope for the future - feels intense, and may require a couple of breaks throughout the one hour and 19 minutes run time.

This might be fresh and new to audiences outside our city. It certainly made an impression on those at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was nominated for the World Cinema - Documentary award by the grand jury and won the audience award. But for Hongkongers, it’s just a retelling of the story we already know, which, depending on where you stand, can either be an encouraging reminder of what we stood for, or an annoying representation of those two months of inconvenience partly caused by the subject of this documentary.

Regardless, seeing five years condensed into little over an hour is a powerful experience. It is a stark look at the current state of politics in Hong Kong, and a keen reminder of what has happened; and more importantly, what hasn’t.

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