Ho Yi (Director) & Joy Ya (Actress) Pre-Screening At Palm Beach Intl Film Festival [Courtesy/Rick Carter]
Watching the progression of “Red Passage” gives an interesting view into the perception of growing up in Communist influenced Hong Kong in the 70s. What makes it unique is that it is from the perspective of someone who actually lived it. Different perceptions allow for different opinions but this is essentially a story of a boy dealing with the evolution of his identity and being shaped at a young age. The conflicts between home and school sometimes are defined within the dogma of what the parents think versus the teachers. Here, the tables are turned with the parents specifically spending this child to a school so he can learn the party. Ho Yi, who directed this feature, based the film upon his own experiences. He shows the push and pull of wanting to be a kid enjoying soccer counter balanced with the specific and focused meetings and ideals of the teachers at the Communist run school he is forced to attend by his parents.
The mantras and a sense of order are repeated with astounding frequency but you do see the perception of order in the party’s presence. However the structure allows for a lack of original thinking and opinion which is its downfall. The personification of education also shows how these ideals can become doctrine in impressionable minds who don’t know any better. Yi’s character is persecuted specifically by one teacher played with dexterous intensity by Joy Ha who counter pars him with dogma at every point but hopes to save him and instill the teachings of Mao in his consciousness.
Ho Yi, himself an accomplished actor and teacher, plays one of the administrators at the school interestingly able to internalize his feelings and yet show the impact of what is being presented. One of the most integral scenes though plays out in the young Ho Yi’s room as he learns and practices a nationalist chant while his parents try to sleep. It shows the intersection of both plot and emotion on a human scale which is why making this movie from the perspective of the life of one who experienced it can be so compelling. It shows the conflict but also, within the character, his revelation.
By Tim Wassberg