Hong Kong films find big audience in New York City

Updated: 2013-07-01 12:38

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily)

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 Hong Kong films find big audience in New York City

Hong Kong film director Herman Yau and Hong Kong screenwriter Erica Li met with press at the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York last week to discuss their work and the films they will show during the New York Asian Film Festival, including The Legend is Born: Ip Man and Ip Man: The Final Fight. Caroline Berg / China Daily

Herman Yau spent his early days in the 1980s immersed in rock 'n' roll music and making independent movies. More than 70 feature films later, Yau remains devoted to cinema and pop culture in his native Hong Kong.

"[Yau] is a very talented and prolific film director," Anita Chan, director of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York, said at a press conference last week with the director and Hong Kong screenwriter Erica Li. "He's really very versatile in his style and the topics that he has chosen."

Frequent collaborators Yau and Li came to New York to attend the screenings of and talk about The Legend is Born: Ip Man and Ip Man: The Final Fight, which had its North American premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) on Sunday.

This year's festival is featuring a record 25 Hong Kong films in a special "Hong Kong Cinema Now and Beyond" program, sponsored by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The film lineup began on Friday and will run through July 11 at the Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center.

During the program, which will include 11 films having their world, North America or New York premieres, a number of Hong Kong directors, actresses, screenwriters and Cantopop bands will attend events to give pre-film screening introductions and attend post-screening question-and-answer sessions.

Chan said the Hong Kong government has been a strong supporter of the movie industry there.

In addition to the $39 million Film Development Fund set up in 1999 to support projects for long-term development of the film industry, it recently launched the First Feature Film Initiative to support young filmmakers with no prior experience in directing commercial films to do their first commercial feature-film project.

"Some people say I have made quite an effort to stick to Hong Kong movies and may label my films as 'Made in Hong Kong,'" Yau said. "Of course as a filmmaker I don't want to limit my career to a limited circle of films. But I grew up in Hong Kong - Hong Kong is so special and intimate to me."

Although Li said she initially had reservations about revisiting the story of Ip Man, a real life Chinese martial artist from Guangdong province who rose in prominence during the early 20th century and has inspired a number of films over the past decade, she decided there's always another angle to a story.

"I think more Superman and Batman movies have been made than Ip Man movies," Li told China Daily. "I would say Ip Man belongs to the first generation of modern Hong Kong, so I want to look back into history and find out how the first generation of Hong Kong people live."

Li said after her mother saw the film, she was very moved because she has trouble finding the same Hong Kong nostalgia in other films or elements of modern Hong Kong life.

"Everything is changing at a very fast pace and we can see many things are disappearing [in Hong Kong]," Yau said. "I hope I can dedicate [Ip Man: The Final Fight] to the elder generation of Hong Kong."

Yau said he believes some local filmmakers are trying to define and preserve Hong Kong's identity in their art as more people fear the city's traditional culture is being lost to modern development.

"I think we fret about what's been happening in the past 10 years," Yau said. "That's why the Hong Kong identity has become a hot topic in debates and discussions or just casual talk. We don't want to see our local culture disappear."


(China Daily USA 07/01/2013 page2)