Culture Club

Failure of Hong Kong television brings the demise of Hong Kong films

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 11:53am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 5:25pm

The free TV licence saga seems to have calmed down a little lately but the Golden Horse Film Awards in Taiwan over the past weekend really bugged me. The two seemed to be irrelevant but trust me, they are.

Towards the end of Saturday night’s way overrun awards ceremony, organisers invited past best actor and best actress winners to stage a grand finale for a night celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Golden Horse Film Awards, the top award honouring Chinese language cinema staged in Taiwan. The past winners, dressed to the nines, were arranged to sit on a panel waving at an audience that was giving a standing ovation out of respect.

Of the past winners who made it to the gala, quite a number of them were familiar faces from Hong Kong. But when I looked up the full list of past winners, I discovered that a majority of the past Hong Kong-winners were trained or began their showbiz career at TVB back in late 1970s and early 1980s when it was the golden era of Hong Kong’s television industry: Carol “Do Do” Cheng, Maggie Cheung (four-time Golden Horse winner), Tony Leung Ka-fai, Tony Leung Chiu-wai (two-time Golden Horse winner), Andy Lau Tak-wah, Aaron Kwok Fu-shing, Lau Ching-wan, Chow Yun-fat, Alex Man Chi-leung, Francis Ng Chun-yu, Leon Lai, Carrie Ng Ka-lai, Rachel Lee Lai-chun and Sandra Ng Kwan-yu.

Even Alan Tam Wing-lun and Anita Mui Yim-fong, who also won the Golden Horse best actor and actress respectively, rose to Canto-pop super stardom of the 1980s thanks to TVB’s promotion. In fact Mui won the first New Talent Singing Awards organised by TVB.

And when I went through the nominations, I was surprised just how many Hong Kong big names on the list actually came from TVB: Wong Kar-wai (The Grandmaster) and Johnnie To Kei-fung (Drug War) in best director; Tony Leung Chiu-wai (The Grandmaster), Tony Leung Ka-fai (Cold War) and Nick Cheung (Unbeatable) [Cheung started at ATV but only earned wide recognition after moving to TVB in 1990s]; of course and Stephen Chow in best adapted screenplay for the script of Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons he co-wrote.

In the end, Hong Kong big names lost almost all in the major awards to Singaporean debut film feature Ilo Ilo and Taiwanese art house film Stray Dogs. But what bugged me weren’t even the results. It was how Hong Kong film industry is still relying on a TVB generation of talents who are already in their late 40s, 50s and beyond. And now, with TVB’s much criticised productions and its lack of competition, while Ricky Wong Wai-kay’s Hong Kong Television Network, which pledged to produce drama series, lost the free TV licence bid, how can we expect we will have another new generation of talents to lead Hong Kong’s film industry in 50 years’ time?

Well done, Hong Kong government, you’ve probably strangled Hong Kong’s pride to death.