16th Mumbai Film Festival – Lessons in Dissent

“Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
Albert Einstein

There are two kinds of people in the world. The first kind is just like you and me. Whatever comes by our way, thrown by our superiors; we accept it. We are at the receiving end. And then there are people who consider it as their responsibility to be the change.

Lessons in dissent is a documentary by Director Matthew Torne and it was screened in the Real Reel section at the festival. The film is a portrayal of the fight of a few Hong Kongers against political oppression. The film mainly revolves around the group named Scholarism. It is a group of secondary school students formed to serve as an alliance against Moral & National Education.

Opening Sequence here

Trailer here

To be very frank, I did not intend to watch this documentary. I wanted to attend another film and I had to enter this screening as I couldn’t catch my desired show. After checking out the opening sequence I was quite amazed that the film is a non fiction film. It was quite unbelievable to see a 15 year old Joshua Wong addressing an audience of 1,00,000 Hong Kongers with such an aggression. When I was 15, my goals, my dreams were completely different. Witnessing the passion of these school going kids was totally exhilarating.

The film, is a completely political film with a one sided message. Judging from the film itself it appears that the school kids and their activism is a representation of all good against evil. My lack of knowledge regarding the subject prevents me from making any judgement out of it but I have a belief that every coin has two sides.

What I really admire about the film is, to convey the message in an appropriate manner, the maker has taken full liberty of using lots of text emphasizing subject matter and directing the audience. Also, the whole documentary is divided into chapters (lessons) justifying the fact that the film is against compulsory national education and the government interference in it.

The film lacks those stunning shots which would give it any acknowledgement as a brilliantly shot film. But it is surely a very well organized and a daring film altogether. This is taking run and gun to the next level. I could only imagine the kind of problems a film maker with western background would face while shooting such a sensitive subject in a country like China.

One has to admire this format of storytelling; a real hard hitting documentary. It acquainted me with so many social issues in Hong Kong and in China as well. It introduced me to the culture gave me a glimpse of the power of the youth. And at no point it made an attempt to preach any particular thought. Apart from a really important subject, the film also is important in the documentary films genre.

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