Blockbuster movies jam-packed with action and special effects have long been staples of Hong Kong cinema. The prize-winning streak of the low-key film A Simple Life has turned those perceptions on their head, bringing in big audiences and returns in the process. Its scooping of the top honours pool at the Hong Kong Film Awards has ensured continued attention to its real-life themes of ageing and relationships, while giving hope for those not in the mainstream of the industry. The acclaim it has received locally and internationally proves that we have flair not only for production, but also first-class talent for writing, directing and acting.
These are matters those who fund movie projects have not generally been overly mindful of. Their concern has been box-office returns, which has inevitably led to productions incorporating the tried-and-tested formulas of martial arts, gangsters and police -- interspersed, when necessary, with comedy. Success is invariably followed by a string of sequels. With competition from elsewhere in Asia, notably South Korea, Taiwan and increasingly Thailand, staying ahead of the pack has become ever-more difficult.
But A Simple Life has done that without having to be flashy, packed with stars and overproduced. Veteran actress Deanie Ip Tak-han has transcended cultures with her portrayal of an ageing live-in maid who suffers a stroke in a story that is well told and believable. It broaches on issues that many of us will one day have to deal with, a far cry from the escapism so prevalent in the majority of cinema offerings. Most likely it would not have been made were it not for the tenacity of co-star Andy Lau Tak-wah, who won the best actor award, in seeking funding.
Good ideas alone do not get films made. While a thriving industry creates jobs and boosts Hong Kong's image, the government's role is not to finance, but to have policies that encourage creativity and promote. A Simple Life proves our skills and abilities - convincing reasons to better support non-mainstream productions.