The filmmakers behind dystopian thriller Ten Years were “very disappointed” to learn that the movie had been mysteriously leaked online. The leak showed “utter disrespect” to the team, the crew said in a statement on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a copy of the 2015 box office hit – which was named “Best Film” at Sunday’s 2016 Hong Kong Film Awards – was uploaded to YouTube in full 1080p quality. The clip was hosted as “unlisted” on a fresh account, meaning it could only be seen by those with a link. The same version was also circulated through eDonkey – a peer-to-peer downloading tool commonly used on the mainland.

The version uploaded was “not the official full version shown in cinemas”, according to the filmmakers, but a version made for a film festival.

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Photo: 10 Years/HKFP.

“This action shows utter disrespect to the five directors and filmmakers who worked hard to make this film, wasting the team’s effort,” the statement read.

“We are very disappointed. We have asked YouTube to take it down and follow up with it – sadly we have yet to receive any reply from them.”

Public screenings ‘not free’

Last week, thousands of moviegoers attended mass screenings of the film at 34 locations across Hong Kong.

“Unfortunately we noticed that some netizens think our public screenings are equal to free screenings, we want to clarify that, all public screenings involved different levels of work, each screening was not free,” the statement added.

The crew said they hoped the screenings would make the film “blossom everywhere”, though it hoped viewers understood that “films are not free entertainment”.

They urged people not to watch or share the illegal link: “We reserve all legal rights to pursue any acts of uploading and downloading.”

No cinema showings

Leng Lei, a spokesperson for UA Cinema, told HKFP that the movie will not be returning to the big screen, despite winning an award.

“Ten Years was already shown in UA cinemas for one month. And after showing in cinemas, there were also showings for the public… So many of those who want to watch it should have watched it already,” Lei said.

“Because of this, we are not considering extra showings for the film at this moment,” she added.

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The 10 Years directors. Photo: Hong Kong Film Awards.

When asked about why Port of Call, a film which won seven awards in the 35th Film Awards, was shown again, Lei said that the distribution company for the film was under the same parent company that owns UA Cinemas. Plus, the film had also won many awards, so they considered it for a limited showing between April 8-10.

Censored by China

Ten Years is a dark socio-political fantasy that imagines what Hong Kong may look like in ten years time. Five directors produced five shorts exploring a city where shops are attacked by uniformed army cadets for selling banned materials, where Mandarin is the dominant language, and where an activist self-immolates in a fight for Hong Kong’s independence.

It was previously dismissed by Chinese state media outlet Global Times as “ridiculous,” which claimed it was “spreading desperation“.

Despite winning the best film award, Chinese media on the mainland did not mention it. After its win, thousands of curious Chinese citizens downloaded the 2011 American romantic comedy Ten Years in the hope of viewing the Hong Kong namesake.

Additional reporting: Chantal Yuen.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.