'My Voice, My Life': Film Review
Ruby Yang's documentary profiles the students of a Hong Kong program teaching performing arts to youngsters from "academically inferior" schools.
Misfit Chinese children are given the opportunity to spread their creative wings in Ruby Yang's documentary about students from a variety of "academically inferior" Hong Kong schools, including one for the blind and visually impaired, who participated in a six-month program of training in acting, singing and dancing. Playing like a real-life version of an Afterschool Special, My Voice, My Life is nonetheless affecting for its striking many predictable notes.
Yang — an Oscar winner for the harrowing short documentary The Blood of Yingzhou District, about orphans afflicted with AIDS — follows a familiar template in her depiction of the life-changing effects of the program. She concentrates on several of the more troubled students, including Jason Chow (aka Ah Hok), a rebellious rabble-rouser; Tsz Nok Lin, who recently lost his sight; Fat Yin, whose antic misbehavior is a mask for his insecurity; Tabitha Chan, who's ashamed about not having been admitted to a top-tier school: and Wing Wing Chan, a recent immigrant from the mainland who feels out of place.
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Anyone who's seen films like Fame and its ilk won't be surprised to discover that these youngsters eventually manage to blossom under the patient tutelage of Nick Ho, the director of the original musical production in which they're preparing to appear.
Their preparations are presented in a straightforward, sometimes amusing fashion, the latter illustrated by such moments as when a teacher, looking at a childhood photo of Fat Yin, gushes, "He was so cute…like a steamed bun!" The film's strongest aspect is the distinctive personalities of its subjects, especially Tsz Nok, who faces his blindness with equanimity while worrying about his parents' shame over his condition.
By the time the kids participate in the climactic school musical production, The Awakening, which features familiar songs from the likes of such shows as Les Miserables, even the most hardened cynical viewers will find themselves enthusiastically cheering them on.
Production: L Plus H Creations Foundation, Lee Hysan Foundation
Director/editor: Ruby Yang
Producer: Ada Ho, Ruby Yang
Executive producers: Yuen Foundation, Victor Chu, Charles Chong, Daniel Wong
Directors of photography: Siu Ki Yip, Mike Mak, Him Chow, Qing Meng
Editor: Man Chung Ma
Composers: Brian Keane, Robert Ellis-Geiger
Not rated, 91 minutes