Hong Kong people have a serious love-hate relationship with the film industry. Nowhere is this ambivalence more apparent than in a recent Reader's Digest survey. At the top of the list of the city's 80 most trusted people was former starlet Josephine Siao Fong-fong and at the bottom was kung fu comic actor Jackie Chan, arguably the city's most famous international star. Chan's ranking is surprising; his unpopularity even beat that of Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing, League of Social Democrats chairman Wong Yuk-man and Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. Hollywood has long assumed he is Hong Kong's biggest star and the government likes to hire him for its commercials.
Interestingly, shortly before the survey was released veteran filmmakers Alex Law Kai-yui and Mabel Cheung Yuen-ting won a prestigious film award for their nostalgic Echoes of the Rainbow, set in the 1960s, at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival. The movie portrays the can-do spirit of a poor but proud family.The award shows we do not lack film talent. Unfortunately, such films rarely do well at the box office. There is a chasm between movies that are critically acclaimed and those that are commercially successful. Chan excels in making commercial movies, but it seems they no longer endear him to many people in the community.
Of course, admiration for Siao does not rest entirely on her past film glory. Rather, it is her work on behalf of abused children that has earned her deep respect within the community. Chan has also committed time, effort and money to many charitable causes, especially on the mainland, but somehow people do not find in him the same level of trust as they do in Siao. Perhaps his reputation has not recovered from the controversial statement he made at the Boao Forum for Asia last year that Hong Kong people needed to be 'controlled'.
It is worrying that Hong Kong no longer has stars and filmmakers who speak for us and succeed at the box office. A film industry cannot survive and prosper without such successes.