Hong Kong International Film Festival

Venice victory raises hopes for HK cinema

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2011, 12:00am

Newly crowned best actress Deanie Ip Tak-han's success at the Venice Film Festival has reignited a debate on what is needed to revive the once-vibrant Hong Kong film industry.

The 63-year-old returned home yesterday, expressing the hope that her award would help more local films to attract investment, including government funding.

But industry insiders said a new dose of fresh talent and an environment for budding directors, actors and scriptwriters were also needed.

'The award was unexpected, and a very big encouragement,' Ip said at the airport. 'Whether I won or not, my wish is that the government can give our film industry more funding.'

Ip's portrayal of a servant in Ann Hui On-wah's A Simple Life won her the top award, a first for a Hong Kong actor.

She said more funding should be given to directors working on non-mainstream subjects but who address meaningful issues in society.

But lack of funding was just one problem, said John Chong Ching, a veteran producer and chief executive of top local studio Media Asia Group. He also said the industry lacked an environment where new blood could practise and hone their skills.

'The government has been doing quite a bit [in terms of funding] - we are in the right direction,' Chong said.

'Of course we hope for more, but our main issue is that we don't have enough talent. A good film would need a good script, a good director and good actors.'

Wilfred Wong Ying-wai, chairman of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society and convenor of the Film Development Council's Fund Vetting Committee, said a plan was being discussed to set up a mentorship programme for new directors entering the industry.

'Young directors and scriptwriters need a place to experiment, and we hope to come out with more ways to help them develop their talent and skills,' Wong said.

The mentorship programme will pair two or three young directors with an experienced director. They will be given a theme and each young director will be asked to make a short film.

Wong said many new directors had not yet been able to handle a full feature film, but if three directors could each make a short film, their films could be put together into one.

'In the past, many films were made this way. This is also a good way for directors to practise, receive help from seasoned directors and get exposure,' he said.

However, director Mo Lai Yan-chi said the film industry needed to focus on home-grown subjects. Her short film 1+1 won awards in Berlin, France and Istanbul. 'We need to realise that if Hong Kong wants to break into the international scene, we need to start local - we need to know and tell our own stories.'

She hoped investors could see beyond the box-office gain when investing and look for scripts that would contribute to the film industry.

Dr Chan Ka-ming, a lecturer in cultural and film studies at Chinese University, said the Film Development Fund - set up in 2007 to provide up to 40 per cent of funding for small to medium budget films - was a step forward for the industry's development.

According to a spokesman for the Film Development Council, the fund still had HK$153 million at the end of last month.