Hot Docs 2017: Our Review of ‘Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2017, Movies by - May 15, 2017
Hot Docs 2017: Our Review of ‘Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower’

There are instances in political documentaries where we hear the subtle yet ominous music marking defeat. It happens in Joe Piscatella’s documentary twice.

Those two moments, however, balance the film’s mostly rousing tone. It’s a tone necessary in depicting a teenager from Hong Kong fighting against the Chinese Communist government. And the teenager wins at least once.

It shows the boy’s leadership. It also shows how extraordinary circumstances mold the qualities that others admire in him. His name is Joshua Wong, a name I didn’t know, hearing instead more about his Umbrella Movement.

Piscatella interviews Wong, his family, his fellow activists, and journalists following China. There’s a stark difference between the first three groups and the latter fourth. He gets the latter’s comprehensive views on one go.

On the other hand we see Wong and his fellow activists through different stages of their lives and the movement. There’s still a seamless quality in incorporating these talking heads. They still have the time to clarify what’s happening on the ground as they grow and transform.

Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower captures the beginning of the movement, as the youth of that country first fights against their educational brainwashing. His fears are universal, showing how children everywhere want to actively know what they’re learning.

Wong also indicates the frustration in dealing with condescending adults and the real harms they pose. It’s one of the many intrusive policies that the Chinese government use in Hong Kong. His fight is much bigger than a curriculum, seeing education as a way for the government to quash freethinking.

He slowly rallies his fellow students, allies who see how the policy change destroys the one country two systems agreement. This documentary is as rare as its subject showing someone deliver and contribute positive change within his society.

  • Release Date: 5/4/2017
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you’re working.