• Charlie Vogelsang

Memories to Choke On, Drinks to Wash Them Down (2019) Review

Showing at the Focus Hong Kong Festival, Memories to Choke On, Drinks to Wash Them Down focuses on four stories collated together to explore the challenges and realities of living in Hong Kong.


Directed by Leung Ming-kai and Kate Reilly, Memories to Choke on, Drinks to Wash Them Down is a collection of four short films showcasing the different realities in Hong Kong. It shows a snapshot into Hong Kong in three different short dramas and a documentary segment.


It starts with a tale based on an Indonesian woman who cares for an elderly lady. The carer is challenged as the elderly lady wants to travel to a gathering reunion from a village she emmigrated from. Reluctantly, she agrees after realising the similarities between the women. They end up bonding over their shared experiences of motherhood and being an immigrant in Hong Kong.


The second short in this film focuses on two brothers and their differing experiences growing up. They find out their mother is selling her toy shop in Sham Shui Po and manage to relive their past through items in the store. This section of the film focuses on family expectations and the pressure that comes with that. It’s shown in a subtle way that allows the audience to infer a lot of information themselves - an intelligent short that allows you to actually think for yourself. In the third segment, the story follows an American lady who arrives in Hong Kong and becomes romantically tangled with a fellow teacher at her school. They bond over afterschool snacks and have immediate chemistry. Both teachers realise their mutual love for food - hence the title of the film.


He is a Hong Kong citizen, and this short focuses on the dynamics of interracial dating - especially with the differences between western and eastern culture. It makes a brief statement on the racial dynamics in Hong Kong and their relationship with the western world - touching upon both the difficult and positive outcomes from this.

For a thought provoking film that blends fictional short films with reality, this is one to check out

The final segment transitions into a documentary depicting a woman as she campaigns and steps forward to fight for the future of Sham Shui Po. It focuses on Jessica Lam, who is linked to the previous segments as they all show real issues in Hong Kong. She is shown as a funny and regular person who clearly wants to help out Sham Shui Po.


Overall, Memories to Choke On, Drinks to Wash Them Down focuses on the issues of the poor district of Sham Shui Po. It’s been the home to new immigrants from mainland China and saw the birth of public housing in Hong Kong after a devastating fire in its slums.


The collection of short films provides a valuable insight into the area and shows the beauty in the people and their relationships. That’s the most important thing to take away from it - that these are essentially all real stories on prominent issues. We see a diverse set of characters from different backgrounds and how they all try to focus on their future. It shows Sham Shui Po as a lively and vibrant district with the most fascinating people.


The filmmaking is simple - but that’s all it needs to tell these stories. Memories to Choke on, Drinks to Wash Them Down stands out as an incredible film as none of the issues are overstated nor demand you to listen to their problems. It’s done intelligently through characters and their environments.


For a thought provoking film that blends fictional short films with reality, this is one to check out. Both Leung and Reilly are directors to watch out for in the future.


8/10


Watch Memories to Choke on, Drinks to Wash Them Down at the Focus Hong Kong Festival. Tickets are available now.