Hong Kong cinema on the brink of a new turn
In recent years, the emergence of film programs in universities and short film competitions such as the Fresh Wave Film Festival have provided more opportunities for young Hong Kong filmmakers to be discovered. The critical success of MAD WORLD, WEEDS ON FIRE and TRIVISA last year was a welcome relief for Hong Kong cinema, an industry that’s been dying for a new generation of filmmakers to carry the torch.
Fortunately, 2017 saw another strong wave of newcomers entering the ring. Assisted by established names, these young directors showed that Hong Kong cinema still has plenty of gas left in its tank. This year’s CinemAsia presents the debut works of three young Hong Kong directors riding on this new wave.
After working as an assistant director for 14 years, Jonathan Li made his directorial debut with THE BRINK. Produced by Soi Cheang, whom Li worked for on DOG EAT DOG, SHAMO and SPL 2, THE BRINK is an action thriller about a hard-boiled cop (Zhang Jin) on a relentless pursuit of a ruthless gold smuggler (Shawn Yue).
A showcase for action star Zhang – who broke out with his supporting turn in Wong Kar-wai’s THE GRANDMASTER — THE BRINK is an audacious undertaking for a first-time director. Thanks to his experience on big-budget productions, Li handles himself more than adequately, especially on two sea-set action sequences that would scare away even established filmmakers.
Funded by the Hong Kong government, the First Feature Film Initiative grants a small budget for first-time directors to make their debut features. The plan’s first year got off to a spectacular start with MAD WORLD and WEEDS ON FIRE, so expectations are sky high for Tam Wai-ching’s IN YOUR DREAMS, one of the two selections for the plan’s second edition.
A scriptwriter on Benny Chan’s THE WHITE STORM and Dante Lam’s OPERATION MEKONG, Tam makes her debut with the story of an eccentric young playboy (Ng Siu-hin) who forms a budding romance with his new substitute home room teacher (Carina Lau). Backed by Lau as producer and frequent Wong Kar-wai collaborator William Chang as editor, IN YOUR DREAMS is a stylishly shot and emotionally complex story of two lonely souls finding solace in each other.
Another locally educated filmmaker who got her first shot in 2017 is Hong Kong Baptist University graduate Doris Wong, who managed to get Taiwan blockbuster director Wei Te-sheng (CAPE NO. 7, SEEDIQ BALE) to produce, and Wei’s scriptwriter Ruby Chen (KANO) to pen her directorial debut, NEW TURN. The film follows a Hongkonger (Cherry Ngan) who goes on a bicycle journey around Taiwan in search of her long-lost twin sister.
Wong’s film – a co-production between Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan – is a gentle-natured and heartwarming road movie that’s also a refreshing change of pace from the pessimism that has overtaken other Hong Kong filmmakers of her generation. NEW TURN is ultimately a love letter to Taiwan and the joy of embracing new friends and adventures.
Kevin Ma, CinemAsia advisor