Three Fathoms Observatory
Stewart Yeung








                                                                                                                                                                                               Life Contemplation

HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (30 October 2012)






This is one of my favorite movies, with no color (B/W), no stunt, no digital special effect, but full of razor-sharp values and imbued with family spirits. It chronicles a socio-economic way of life passing and the extended family disintegrating.

A Welsh valley near a fledgling coalmining town was not yet despoiled, thus was green in the memory of the protagonist, Huw, the youngest boy in a family of 6 brothers and one sister. He was the only child studying in school, so was the “scholar” among his uneducated parents and brothers who worked in the dirty and dangerous coalmining environment. The movie centers on Huw’s struggle toward manhood amid conflicting demands of faith, economics, education and family loyalty.

The family hoped Huw would find a better life. He befriended the village pastor who supported him in his childhood. He began school at a nearby village but was picked on by the bullying boys. His family taught him to fight back in defense of himself. Huw was awarded a scholarship to university, but to his father's dismay he declined it and chose to work in the mines together with his family. His father eventually died in a tragic coalmine accident.

At the end of the movie Huw finally left the coalmines but recalled, "Men like my father cannot die. They are with me still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever. How green was my valley then."

I came from a family that was frugal, and loving, albeit in a reserved Chinese way. While my father and brothers worked long hours in Chinese restaurants, I was the “scholar” and my parents had great expectation of my finding a better life. Our extended family disintegrated when my father died shortly after he retired from his lifelong job and my brothers moved out to set up their own nuclear families. During my childhood I had my struggle towards manhood and yearning for emotional and spiritual support. Eventually I actualized my parents’ vision for a better life by studying in universities and becoming a professional.

I shed a few tears when I first watched the movie. But why would a Hongkongese resonate with the emotions in a Welsh coalmining town? The answer lies in our common humanity.

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