SCMP Film review: My Voice, My Life

Starring: Jason Chow, Lin Tsz-nok, Tabitha Chan, Lam Sio-fan, Nick Ho Lik-ho, Emily Chung Siu-wan
Director: Ruby Yang Ziye
Category: IIA (Cantonese)

Pic of Ji Lok 2

Students are a real inspiration. Even those who initially appear to be troublemakers can go on to give us great hope for the future.

That is the message of My Voice, My Life, Ruby Yang Ziye’s stirring documentary which follows 80 students from four middle and secondary schools (including the Ebenezer School and Home for the Visually Impaired) as they undergo six months of training to stage a musical at the Kwai Tsing Theatre.

An Oscar winner for The Blood of Yingzhou District, a documentary short about the effect of HIV/AIDS on orphans in Anhui province’s Yingzhou district, director-producer-editor Yang has lived on the mainland and is often described as a Chinese-American director. However, she was born in Hong Kong and her filmography includes Citizen Hong Kong (1997). And her latest work proves the so-called Lion Rock spirit is alive and well in Hong Kong’s youth.

A case in point is Jason Chow (aka Ah Bok), a self-proclaimed bad boy motivated by caring individuals around him to become a better team player. Another is Tabitha Chan, a Form Four student from a low-band school who, during the course of the documentary, grows in confidence and maturity to perform well in the musical and better interact with her peers.

The documentary cannot tell the individual stories of every student involved in this project, but it does allow us to hear the voices of a few.

And while the initial reaction to students such as Lin Tsz-nok, a teenager who lost his sight the previous year, and Lam Sio-fan, who has been unable to see for a good deal longer, may be one of pity, the students impress with their abilities and attitude, and command much respect.

Also inspirational are those tasked with teaching the students musical theatre skills and imparting important life lessons. They include playwright-producer Nick Ho Lik-ho and musical director Emily Chung Siu-wan, who show themselves to be capable and caring. This is also true of some senior teachers involved in this collective effort to create something beautiful.

My Voice, My Life touches the heart and will bring some viewers to tears. It contains important lessons, and voices serious concerns, while offering hope for a better tomorrow.

A message to the cynics who may think that too much may have been made out of a short-term project: be sure to stay to the end to learn what has happened in the lives of the individuals after the staging of the musical that they worked so hard to produce.

My Voice, My Life opens on October 16

SCMP 2014-10-16

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