Freedom or funding the filmmaker's China choice, Johnnie To says
Hong Kong filmmakers are not 'completely free' to make movies in China, but while they have freedom at home, 'without the Chinese market, it can only be small films', acclaimed director ruefully admits
Johnnie To toes the line: Hong Kong film director Johnnie To Kei-fung proved with 2012's Drug War that he could work within the Chinese film system despite its censorship and ridiculous story mandates (for example, cops in Chinese films must be depicted as selfless do-gooders).
To, one of the great Hong Kong filmmakers of this generation, isn't about to push the restrictions too far. In an interview with British magazine The Skinny, the 60-year-old filmmaker revealed that he wanted to make a movie on the city's pro-democracy "umbrella movement", but said it would spell doom for his film company, which has relied on co-financing from Beijing film studios in recent years.
"What happened during the umbrella revolution and what it means for Hong Kong will always be in my head," he said. "I would definitely want to [make a film] … however, if we had to do this right now, it would have consequences for my company."
To also conceded that "you cannot make a film in China and be completely free", but while Hong Kong cinema still allows for artistic freedom, "without the Chinese market, it can only be small films".
This is known to anyone familiar with local cinema, but it's still sad to hear those words directly.
Cine Fan 2015 festival line-up: Hou Hsiao-hsien's wuxia epic The Assassin and Hong Kong director Ringo Lam Ling-tung's Wild City will open this year's Cine Fan Summer International Film Festival on August 11.
Starring Shu Qi as a Tang-dynasty-era killer who must decide between completing a mission and saving the man she loves, The Assassin was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and won Hou, 68, the award for best director. Wild City, meanwhile, marks Lam's return to Hong Kong crime films after a 12-year hiatus, a genre he popularised in the 1980s with films such as City on Fire and Prison on Fire.
Woody Allen's Irrational Man will close the festival on August 25. In all, the festival will bring 32 films to city screens.