Names come and go in the film business, and projects take a long time, but still it is unusual that a top-grade director would take six years between productions. When you see what Po-chih Leong has come up with, however, the puzzle of why he went away for so long turns into bewilderment at how he could have produced so much in so little time. Leong has had help, however. His 28-year-old daughter Sze-wing co-directed his first massive project to appear since 1992, Riding The Tiger. It is a 240-minute documentary for Britain's Channel 4 about the handover, culled from 400 hours of footage shot in Hong Kong over four years. And while they film an update on the documentary to air in Britain this June, Leong is also putting the finishing touches on his first feature film in six years. The Wisdom Of Crocodiles was shot in Britain and will be distributed in North America by Miramax. This story of seduction stars hot young British actor Jude Law (Gattaca, Wilde ) and will go into previews next month. It is Leong's first film since Shanghai 1920 with John Lone in 1992 (Leong was also behind the lens on Jumping Ash, Hong Kong 1941 with Chow Yun-fat and Ping Pong ), and his first film to be shot in the West. He is still based in Hong Kong, however, and yesterday he guided Riding The Tiger to its first - and only - screening at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. Shot on video by Leong and his daughter, Riding The Tiger is a four-part series which will probably not be screened on commercial channels here. Sze-wing explains: 'We have an agreement with the characters in the documentary that we have to talk to them first before it airs in Hong Kong.' Because of political concerns? 'No,' she laughs. 'It's more because they don't want their friends and family to see them on national television!' Riding The Tiger takes several characters - such as politician Christine Loh Kung-wai, entrepreneur Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, a bi-racial police couple and the 60-year-old Mrs Leung, an old neighbour of the Leongs - and traces them over four years in the run-up to the handover. 'We did this off our own bat,' Leong explains. 'For one and a half years we went ahead without financial assistance. Then we showed our footage - it ran to 180 hours already - to Channel 4 and they commissioned it; they were interested in a different viewpoint on the handover through the local media. 'The international media can only do interviews on a very basic level here unless they speak Chinese. An ordinary reporter can't speak to people in the way we do. Our mentality is strictly Hong Kong. We've lived here, we're able to get around. Grass-roots level.' Unusually, the documentary does not feature former Governor Chris Patten. 'Well, first of all, we thought he was over-exposed,' Leong says. 'But then he wouldn't speak with us anyway. Why not? Well, you'd have to ask him that.' The documentary, which kicks off with Ms Loh at the New Territories land rights protests and circles Hong Kong as well as visiting the mainland, presents a fascinating look at changing perspectives over four years. During that time, Sze-wing quit her job at Turner Network Television to join her father full-time on the project, apart from shooting a few commercials ('I had to make a living,' she explains). 'Fortunately I can ride a motorcycle, and when Sze-wing gave up her job, we both went around Hong Kong on our bikes with our video recorders,' the director says. 'Everything was up for grabs. You just had to go out there and capture it.' There were, however, 'lots of disagreements and fights, of course!' admits his daughter. 'But we trust each other and we knew it wasn't about ego, that we both wanted the best film possible. The biggest disagreement, I would say, was over how the first episode was cut. He wanted to structure it more like a movie.' Leong agrees. 'Documentary film-making is like going back to the real world,' he says. 'When you're making a feature film, you're living in a bubble - or, as some people say, you're in a prison. You don't read the papers, you don't live a normal life. So in that respect, it was good. 'But shooting on video, we couldn't be cinematic. We couldn't control a situation - we couldn't ask people: 'Would you mind walking down that street again?' I did try for the cinematic moments, to go in for close-ups. But it was limited by the form.' Sze-wing, who followed a boyfriend to film school in Britain and is now set firmly on a movie-making career, has a brother and sister who may also go into the business. 'My brother has written a paper at university on a Japanese film director, and my sister worked as production assistant on the fourth episode of Riding The Tiger,' she says. 'I don't know whether they'll go into it full-time, but they've both got excellent eyes.' If Riding The Tiger has taken since 1994 to come to fruition, The Wisdom Of Crocodiles has had an even longer birthing process. English Patient director Anthony Minghella's wife (who is from Hong Kong) first brought a section of an unpublished book to his attention. 'I said it would make a great film,' says Leong. 'That was in 1992!' The resulting romantic thriller, which is in post-production, was shot in Britain's Ealing Studios last winter from an original screenplay by Paul Hoffman. It features Law (soon to be seen in Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil ) as a master in the art of seduction - until he meets Elina Lowenshon. The film also stars Kerry Fox (An Angel At My Table ) and Timothy Spall (Secrets And Lies ). 'English film-making is very disciplined,' says Leong. 'There's a lot of energy and fun here [in Hong Kong] which comes together somehow to make a film - it's the opposite in England. Everything is very detailed before you start to shoot. You have to do a lot more work in Hong Kong yourself. Also, here, they don't argue back - in Britain, they'll work with you by debating your ideas sometimes. I like that.' Law, he says, 'is an excellent, tireless actor. He was in nearly every scene over 42 days and never flagged'. While Leong prepares a special screening of The Wisdom Of Crocodiles for Miramax next month, he is also shooting an update of Riding The Tiger, again for Channel 4. The resulting four 30-minute episodes will be aired in Britain in June and will follow some of the characters from the original documentary through the transition to Chinese rule, as well as adding a few new personalities. Not, however, that Riding The Tiger is going to become the 7-Up of Hong Kong documentary film-making, with instalments coming ad infinitum. 'I'm waiting to see what happens with The Wisdom Of Crocodiles before lining up another project,' says Leong. 'I am a feature film-maker at heart.' Sze-wing adds: 'My ultimate aim is to write a script and make a movie eventually. Wherever I get the opportunity.' They made Riding The Tiger with themselves in mind at first - a family project documenting their Hong Kong lives which started, naturally enough, with their neighbour Mrs Leung, who lived in a shack next to their high-rise apartment. 'I vote for sleep,' she told them, when asked about the elections. 'At first, we wanted a record for ourselves,' says Sze-wing. 'I can remember how I felt when I filmed those scenes - it is like a journal for me. But the most moving time was in putting the film together. We stopped before the handover and, in the editing, there were parts when I'd be looking at people reacting to events in the history of Hong Kong. That was pretty amazing.'