Tony Leung on Hong Kong's last decade of film

Soho Xiaobao, July 2007

The theme of the July issue of Soho Xiaobao is the tenth anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China. It features short, one-page essays by a number of guest contributors from Hong Kong, including the following look at the film industry by Tony Leung:

These ten years

the humble opinion of someone in the Hong Kong film industry
by Tony Leung Ka-fai

In July everyone was discussing the tenth anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to the motherland. I will gladly stand up and, from my position within the film industry, share with you all my own experiences. For me, twenty-five years have passed in the blink of an eye since I returned to China to shoot movies. For the past quarter-century, the Chinese film industry has travelled at leaps and bounds; its speed so fast and its power so ferocious that it has indeed exceeded anyone's imagination.

Due to a fortunate coincidence, I returned to Beijing twenty-five years ago to make movies. At the time, there were already talented people working in the mainland film industry. There was hard work and creativity, although nothing could be done about the relative backwardness of the hardware at the time - I can't deny that it was quite far off international levels. Many things had to be brought in from Hong Kong, and because workers grew up in different environments, there were occasional instances of unavoidable mistakes and times when people's individual strengths did not complement each other as well as they could have.

Besides, the attitude of people in the industry is quite different today from what it was at the time. As a young guy just starting out, I felt exactly the same returning to work in Beijing as I did working in any other city in the world. At most it was just that the food was more to my liking and I could more easily adapt to the lifestyle and language. In foreign cities there weren't these conveniences.

Today's situation is different. Now, China possesses a film market with immense potential, and in addition, many provinces and cities have set up centers devoted to film production. Science and technology, financial resources, and personnel are all first-rank. Film companies from across the world are looking for opportunities to shoot in China, and who knows how many films are being shot in China every day by domestic, foreign, and joint-venture companies. And the trend is continuing to flourish - the opportunities for future development are indeed unlimited.

As the center for film production has moved north in the ten years since the return, numbers of Hong Kong cinema personnel - actors, front-office workers and people behind the camera - have been increasing in all areas. Today, when Hong Kong film workers return to the motherland to work, they have a feeling of closeness and pride at development all across China. You can hardly compare that to my not caring one way or the other when I first came back to work.

There are critics who say that in the ten years since Hong Kong returned to the motherland, there are areas in which integration with the motherland has been done well, and there are some areas in which things have proceeded slowly. I cannot address each individually, but in my humble opinion, this decade has primarily been a mutual adaptive phase. There's no reason for anxiety - on the contrary, what's most important making sure the foundation is adjusted properly. On this front, the movie industry has indeed achieved a measure of success.

In the past, there was limited interaction between actors in Hong Kong and on the mainland, and due to the current adaptive phase, there may be times when the subject matter and originality of movies might be limited. As close contact grows between film-makers in the two regions, and as China brings forth world-class directors and fresh, creative and innovative troops, they will gain positive appraisal on the world stage. In international film festivals, the number of awards won by people in Hong Kong film has gradually crept upward, and many of those awards were once given only to people on the mainland. At the same time, the work attitude of many people in the biz has begun to change; in the past it was common to speak of partnerships between Hong Kong and China, but now Hong Kong belongs to China and everyone is talking about how to be a part of China and pursuing success in their work. These are all things to cheer about, good things that have happened to the film industry over the ten years since the return.

My look back at the last decade is over, and I remain optimistic looking ahead at the next ten years. The average person usually overestimates what goals can be accomplished in a year but underestimates what can be achieved in a decade. In truth, a decade passes in the blink of an eye, and it is hard to get a handle on it. Why not set a practical goal even further off? Hong Kong has been part of the motherland for ten years now, and everyone has had sufficient time to adjust and become accustomed to it. They understand that Hong Kong is part of the big family of China, and they know the strengths and potential of the Chinese film industry. In the next ten years, our goal should be to continue cooperation with other cities in China, to make good use of our financial, technological, and human resources and opportunities, and to enter the world market under the "made in China" brand, not just as a "Hong Kong - China co-production." We eagerly anticipate even greater success.

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There are currently 2 Comments for Tony Leung on Hong Kong's last decade of film.

Comments on Tony Leung on Hong Kong's last decade of film

There has indeed been a great amount of cooperation in the last decade. I feel Tony Leung's positive take on the last ten years makes its point; however, how about the crisis the Hong Kong film industry has been going through during the last few years? I think we need to get some balance in...

What an ass kisser... but hey for millions of dollars many people around the world are kissing the mainland's ass, no? Just pathetic though how fast everyone is so willing to support a industry with ZERO creativity. Taking credit for movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, can't tell you how many times I have heard that this is a "mainland movie" from various mainlanders. hopeless....

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