2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: JOSHUA: TEENAGER VS SUPERPOWER

Joe Piscatella reveals how an unassuming 14-year-old boy defended Hong Kong’s sovereignty from China.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition

USA (about Hong Kong)

Sundance Program Description:

Joshua Wong is not your typical Hong Kong college student. Inside the bespectacled, unassuming teenager simmers a fierce political activist whose question for his compatriots is simple: Why should China decide our values? Armed with a political philosophy of Scholarism and enormous cojones, Wong is so deeply committed to his convictions that he’s willing to go up against anyone, including the Chinese regime, to fight for them.

Amid the glistening cityscape, filmmaker Joe Piscatella shows us another side of Hong Kong – where a new generation, in defiance of the ghosts of Tiananmen Square, has asserted its identity against the mood of disillusionment that ignited mass protests in 2014. A powerful, charismatic spokesperson, Joshua comes of age on screen as he rallies tens of thousands to civil disobedience as part of a 79-day campaign to shut down Hong Kong’s financial district. Determined not to “dump this problem on the next generation,” Joshua risks it all and doubles down as the crackdown intensifies, becoming the face of a movement in the process.

Some Background:

  • Joe Piscatella
    Past Sundance docs:

    FINDERS KEEPERS (2015, executive producer)

    Piscatella’s sophomore feature marks his Sundance debut, and continues to explore similar thematic territory as his first doc, #CHICAGOGIRL: THE SOCIAL NETWORK TAKES ON A DICTATOR.


  • Andrew Duncan
    The June Pictures chairman is also behind 2017 Sundance narrative features FUN MOM DINNER and THOROUGHBRED.

  • Matthew Torne
    Past Sundance docs:

    ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE (2010, World Cinema Special Jury Prize, associate producer)

    Torne previously directed the documentary LESSONS IN DISSENT, which profiled Joshua Wong and his former classmate and fellow activist Ma Jai, and debuted at the Hong Kong International Film Festival in 2014.

  • Mark Rinehart
    The Emmy-nominated Rinehart previously produced #CHICAGOGIRL. This is his first Sundance credit.

Executive Producer:

  • Alex Saks
    Saks exited her role as ICM agent to become CEO of June Pictures, and as such also produced this year’s FUN MOM DINNER and THOROUGHBRED.


  • Matthew Sultan
    Past Sundance docs:

    FINDERS KEEPERS (additional editor)

    Sultan also cut #CHICAGOGIRL.

Why You Should Watch:
Unlikely activist Wong makes for a compelling protagonist, a veritable David vs mainland China and Hong Kong leader CY Leung’s symbiotic Goliath. Benefiting from strong access, Piscatella nimbly carries the viewer through several years of Scholarism’s social media-enabled popular struggle against the incursion of repressive ideological policies on Hong Kong society.

More Info:
Meet the Artist

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.