Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower Movie Poster Image
Docu about brave teen taking on oppressive government.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 79 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

There's no age limit to bravery. Stand up for what you believe in. "They can't stop all of us!"

Positive Role Models & Representations

Joshua Wong is a bright and unusually mature Hong Kong teenager who decides to act when he learns that his freedoms are being threatened by the Communist Chinese government that has taken over his city, Hong Kong. He urges fellow students to be willing to pay the steep price for freedom.

Violence

Police throw tear gas into crowds. People run and scream, holding their stinging eyes. Police arrest and drag away protesters. Joshua goes on a hunger strike but stops after five days because of concerns for his health.
 

Sex
Language

"F--k," "s--t," and "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower is not, as the title might suggest, an action movie about a kid facing a comic book foe, but rather a documentary about a bright teen who takes it upon himself to help lead a youth movement against Communist China's takeover of his city, the former British colony of Hong Kong. The fight includes a hunger strike, street protests, sit-ins, and confrontations with police, who use force and tear gas to control huge crowds. Expect to see many intelligent, dedicated young people working to preserve free speech and free thought -- and also to hear "f--k," "s--t," and "hell." There's a clear message about the importance of courage.

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What's the story?

The story behind JOSHUA: TEENAGER VS. SUPERPOWER begins in 1997, when Great Britain turned over the former British colony, Hong Kong, to the Communist People's Republic of Chinese government as per a 1984 agreement. Hong Kong, an island a thousand miles off the coast of China and populated mostly by ethnically Chinese, had under the British developed into a modern, Western-type hub of world commerce, affording its people freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and thought. China had promised a one-country, two-system takeover when the British left, assuring 1.2 million Hong Kongers a hands-off political approach that would allow continued social and economic freedom for 50 years after the takeover. In 2012, they broke the promise and tried to institute a new propaganda-laced education system that students feared would "brainwash" and oppress Hong Kong's youth. Joshua Wong and other teens formed Scholarism, a group dedicated to stopping this change. The movement grew. Grownups joined. Through peaceful street protest, handing out leaflets, and taking over a major city civic center, the teens got China to back off the school takeover. Soon the Chinese reneged on another promise: Instead of allowing Hong Kong to choose its own leaders, it required those leaders be chosen from a China-approved list of candidates. Joshua and friends took to the streets again, this time with thousands of adults joining. The government responded with violence, tear gas, and arrests. The teens lost that battle but through Demosisto, a new group focusing on running candidates for local office, they promise to fight on. Student activist Nathan Law won a legislative seat as he and the group continue to fight the system from within.   

Is it any good?

This is a thoughtful, engrossing documentary for mature teens and their families. Director Joe Piscatella does an admirable job using inspiring and sometimes upsetting footage to intimately monitor the struggles of a group of dedicated teenagers pledged to keeping Hong Kong a free entity for themselves and coming generations. Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower may inspire high schoolers to learn more about the history of Hong Kong and China. Scenes in which people suffer the pain of tear gassing by police and forcible arrests may be disturbing to younger or sensitive kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what you would do if your government started to take away your freedoms. Would you risk your future, as Joshua does?

  • Student leader Nathan Law runs for the Hong Kong legislature and wins in the effort to prevent mainland China from removing Hong Kong's democratic rights. Do you think American kids take their democratic rights for granted because they've always had them? Why or why not?

  • How does Joshua show courage? Why is that an important character strength?

  • Is it important to study how other governments have suppressed freedom?

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