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Old October 3rd, 2004, 07:18 PM   #1
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Hong Kong's Film Industry

Double Hong Kong film series at New York Film Festival

The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York is sponsoring two film series: A Tribute to Shaw Brothers Studios and Recent Films from Hong Kong, at the 42nd New York Film Festival, which opened on October 1.

Director of the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office in New York, Miss Sarah Wu, welcomed the audience to the opening night of the Shaw Brothers tribute at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center tonight (October 2, New York time).

"We are proud to be sponsoring two Hong Kong film series here at the 42nd New York Film Festival," Miss Wu said. "The film industry in Hong Kong has had a long and vivid history. Many of you are familiar with recent kung-fu movies such as "Hero" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". What you may not know is that these movies traced their roots back to kung-fu movies produced by the Shaw Brothers Studios, which now define the martial-arts movie genre.

The Shaw Brothers Studios Tribute casts a retrospective glimpse at the pioneering styles of movie-making at the "Hollywood of the East" in Hong Kong. Running from October 2 to 13, the tribute offers a range of key films produced by the Shaw Brothers Studios from the 1950s to the 1970s that demonstrate the extraordinary richness of Hong Kong cinema in these crucial formative years.

This 12-film retrospective encompasses a wide range of genre and film styles, from historical epics to contemporary comedies, from adaptations of operas to Hollywood-style musicals. They include "The House of 72 Tenants", "Love without End", "Blood Brothers", "Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan", etc.

Legendary actress Ivy Ling Bo graced the opening night screening of the classic "The Love Eterne" ( Liang Shanbo Yu Zhu Yingtai) tonight. The movie, directed by Li Han-hsiang, adopted the Chinese opera style of women playing men's role with the dialogues sung in Chinese "Yellow Blossom" operatic style. Ms Ling played the male lead in the movie.

About 200 guests attended the reception that followed the screening tonight, including director An Lee and other supporters of Hong Kong movies.

Complementing the Shaw Brothers tribute at the 42nd New York Film Festival is Recent Films from Hong Kong film series, from October 18 to 28, featuring 15 popular and reputable films produced in Hong Kong since 2000, including the acclaimed cop trilogy "Infernal Affairs".

Miss Wu said Hong Kong contemporary films were also making their mark in the international arena, noting that famed American director Martin Scorsese was planning to shoot the remake of "Infernal Affairs", starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon next year.

"In recent years, Hong Kong's cinematic achievements has reached new highs and I am pleased that you will see for yourself the international acclaim achieved by these Hong Kong actors and directors in the Recent Films of Hong Kong series," she said.

Other films featured in the Recent Films series include Johnny To's "Running on Karma", Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood for Love", and Lo Chi-leung's "Inner Senses", which was the last work by actor/singer Leslie Cheung.

Details of the film festivals can be found from the Film Society of Lincoln Center web site at http://www.filmlinc.com.

Ends/Sunday, October 3, 2004


Emerging opportunities for Canada-Hong Kong film co-production

Filmmakers in Calgary were encouraged to explore the emerging opportunities in co-producing movies with Hong Kong, capitalising on the preferential treatment offered by CEPA (Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement) for the China market, and making use of Hong Kong's talented people.

Speaking today (October 2, Calgary time) at a film seminar presented by the 5th Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) at Calgary's Sheraton Hotel, Mr Bassanio So, Director of the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office (Canada) (HKETO), discussed with a group of filmmakers and people from the film and television industry about the practical issues pertaining to co-production of films, and the strength of Hong Kong as a film marketing and distribution centre.

Eight Hong Kong films were being featured at the "Spotlight on Hong Kong" series of this year's CIFF between September 24 and October 3. They included "The Floating Landscape", "Running on Karma", "Magic Kitchen", "Golden Chicken 2", "Lost in Time", "Heroic Duo", "20,30,40" and "Elixir of Love".

CIFF has become one of North America's most innovative showcases for Canadian and international movies since its introduction five years ago. Mr So said Hong Kong was proud to be a contributing partner of CIFF. "Apart from prominently featuring eight outstanding Hong Kong films among 300 international and Canadian productions, this year's festival also provides an excellent opportunity for us to examine how Canadian film and television producers can leverage on Hong Kong to embark onto the growing markets of Mainland China and the rest of Asia."

Mr So told the seminar that Hong Kong, being one of the world's largest film exporters after India, the United States and Japan, had captured a significant share in the film markets of Southeast Asia, Taiwan and South Korea. A total of 92 local films were released in Hong Kong in 2002, and even during the SARS outbreak last year 77 were released. The Federation of Hong Kong Film Workers expects that the total number of films to be produced in 2004 would increase by 30% to 40%, and more than half of them would be co-productions.

Hong Kong's film industry has a long history of co-production with overseas companies. Co-production with Mainland China has been popular since the 1980s to take advantage of lower production costs and a wider variety of shooting locations.

"Many foreign studios use Hong Kong as a production co-ordination base for the Greater China region, handling talent recruitment, scripting, financing and overall planning, as well as providing technical support, editing and dubbing services for overseas crews on location shooting in Hong Kong," Mr So said.

"The success stories such as 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon' and the recent Hong Kong-China co-production 'Hero' etc. have proved that Hong Kong has a pool of talented people in the film industry", said Mr So. In 2003, there were over 1,200 film-related establishments in Hong Kong, employing some 6,000 people.

According to the HKETO Director, the trade liberalisation under CEPA has opened up new opportunities for the film industry. Preferential treatment has been given to the distribution of audio-visual products from Hong Kong to China, as well as the construction and renovation of cinemas, distribution of TV programs, and the operation of cable television networks by Hong Kong companies in China.

"Although CEPA is a free-trade agreement between Hong Kong and Mainland China, overseas companies, including Canadian companies, can benefit from it," Mr So said. To benefit from CEPA, Canadian filmmakers can collaborate with their Hong Kong counterparts in joint ventures, to satisfy the requirement that Hong Kong companies should have 75% of the copyright of the motion pictures produced. Furthermore, Canadian companies can inject capital to become a shareholder of an existing service supplier in Hong Kong in order to enjoy CEPA's preferential treatment.

Mr So also invited representatives from Canada's film industry to take part in the Hong Kong International Film and TV market (FILMART), one of the most important film industry events in Asia, in March 2005. The annual event brings together producers, distributors, suppliers and buyers from all over the world, reinforcing Hong Kong's position as a film distribution centre in Asia. Last year, about 300 exhibitors and 2,000 buyers from 40 countries joined the event.

Hong Kong film director Ms Carol Lai, who specially flew to Calgary to promote Hong Kong's film industry and her production "The Floating Landscape", one of the Hong Kong films featured at the CIFF, was one of the speakers at the seminar. The award-winning director shared with the audience her professional views on Hong Kong-Canada and Hong Kong-China co-productions. She also provided a practical "Go East" guide for the Canadian film professionals to venture into the huge China market.

Johnnie To Kei-fung's "Running on Karma" was shown this evening (October 2, Calgary time)at Uptown I cinema as the finale of the "Spotlight on Hong Kong" series. About 400 guests and movie goers attended at the Hong Kong Gala Reception after the movie at the Chicago Chop House in Calgary.

"Spotlight on Hong Kong" was organised with the support of the Fairchild Media Group, Long Shong Group, Applause Pictures Ltd., Universe Entertainment Ltd., Sil-Metropole Organisation Ltd., Filmko Film Distribution (HK) Ltd., and Columbia Pictures Films Productions, and Columbia Tristar Film Distribution International.

The event is fully support by CHKF, FM 94.7, Sing Tao Daily and Trend Weekly as its media sponsors.

Website : http://www.calgaryfilm.com

Ends/Sunday, October 3, 2004


Film festival to showcase HK's best recent productions

Eight recent films by renowned Hong Kong directors will feature in a Hong Kong Film Festival in Toronto October 2-8 being jointly presented by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (Canada) and the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto.

With the support of the Royal Ontario Museum, the Hong Kong Film Festival aims to introduce Canadian audiences to some of the best work of Hong Kong's directors and promote Hong Kong films among Canadians.

HKETO Director Bassanio So said that as one of the world's major film production centres and the regional hub for film trading and services, Hong Kong was well positioned to establish itself as 'Asia's Hollywood'.

"We hope that by bringing these high-quality productions by directors like Johnnie To, Sylvia Chang, Carol Lai and Derek Yee, the Hong Kong Film Festival will give Canadians a better understanding and appreciation of our film professionals who are enjoying worldwide recognition," Mr So said.

Johnnie To's 'Running on Karma' will be the opening film. Others to be screened are: 'The Floating Landscape' by Carol Lai, 'Magic Kitchen' by Lee Chi-ngai, 'Golden Chicken 2' by Samson Chiu, 'Lost in Time' by Derek Yee, 'Heroic Duo' by Benny Chan, 'Elixir of Love' by Riley Yip and '20,30,40' by Sylvia Chang. None of the films have been commercially released in North America.

As part of the festival, a seminar on Hong Kong-Canada co-production will be held on October 5 at the Royal Ontario Museum to examine how Canadian filmmakers and movie companies can make use of Hong Kong to explore the vast Asian market.

Ends/Wednesday, September 15, 2004
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Old October 4th, 2004, 12:23 AM   #2
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Usually the kind of HK movies that the wests would like are fighting kungfu movies or guns, action movies. Others like love movies I don't think is so popular. And are the HK movies abroad really so popular and has a big sell? I don't think so...

And other countries life Japan, Republic of Korea, Thailand...etc can produce movies as HK can. I think the competitiveness is big, and the space potential is not as big.

I think most westerners won't like to watch movies like "The Floating Landscape", "Magic Kitchen"...etc. It's just different style. I have some German friend and they said very boring and complain why no sex scenes after watching "My sassy girl"...well but this is just their individual feelings...but I mean most western youngters are different and they don't know what Asian entertainment stage looks like. So it's hard to get a profit.
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Old October 5th, 2004, 03:24 PM   #3
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the swedish TV had a HK-movie weekend last year showing 5 HK-movies. cool movies

http://svt.se/svt/jsp/Crosslink.jsp?d=13358&a=190434
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Old October 6th, 2004, 12:40 AM   #4
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I thought they were going to air the original "Infernal Affairs" here in the US?
That's what it seemed when I saw its preview trailer in the movie "Hero."

A Hollywood remake would really suck.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 01:17 AM   #5
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Quote:
A Hollywood remake would really suck
the three heros in the movie 'hero' they translated here in melbourne, nameless(wu ming), broken sword(chan jian), flying snow(fei xue).. local australian friends were asking me isnt this a comedy plus kungfu movie..

misstranslation could spoilt everything..
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Old October 6th, 2004, 09:57 PM   #6
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Hong Kong's Best Recent Films Showcase in Toronto

A series of Hong Kong's recent best film productions was unveiled yesterday (October 4, Toronto time) at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto to mark the opening of the Hong Kong Film Festival organised by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (Canada) (HKETO) and the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto.

This followed the successful "Spotlight on Hong Kong" staged between September 24 and October 2 as the highlight of this year's Calgary International Film Festival. (CIFF)

Among the eight films recently directed by talented Hong Kong directors, Johnnie To's award-winning "Running on Karma" was the opening film of the festival last night. It was the CIFF Hong Kong Gala film screened last Saturday in Calgary and met with widespread acclaim.

Organised with the full support of the ROM, the festival aims to promote Hong Kong films and film talents, as well as to enhance the understanding and appreciation of the Canadian community about the works of Hong Kong's film professionals.

At the opening ceremony, the HKETO Director, Mr Bassanio So, said the film festival was also designed to promote the business opportunities available for Canada-Hong Kong co-productions, capitalizing on Hong Kong's advantages under the "Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement" (CEPA) with Hong Kong as a fast track to the Mainland market.

"Hong Kong film industry and its talented film professionals have made their way to the international film arena, contributing much to the vibrancy and versatility of the industry. They are ever ready to partner with their Canadian counterparts on co-production initiatives," he said.

Joining Mr So at the festival opening at ROM were Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Dr Marie Bountrogianni; Member of Provincial Parliament, and Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Economic Development and Trade Mr Tony Wong; Councillor Norman Kelly of City of Toronto and Councillor Alex Chiu of Town of Markham; and the Director of "The Floating Landscape" Carol Lai, who flew from Hong Kong to officiate at the opening ceremony.

The festival, which is being held from October 2 to October 8, features "Running on Karma" by Johnnie To as the opening film. Other films include: "The Floating Landscape" by Carol Lai, "Magic Kitchen" by Lee Chi-ngai, "Golden Chicken 2" by Samson Chiu, "Lost in Time" by Derek Yee , "Heroic Duo" by Benny Chan, "Elixir of Love" by Riley Yip and "20,30,40" by Sylvia Chang.

As part of the festival, a seminar on Hong Kong-Canada co-production will be held today (October 5, Toronto time) at ROM to examine how Canadian film makers and movie companies can make use of Hong Kong to explore the vast Asian market, especially that in China.

The HKETO Director, Mr So, will join other panel speakers from Goodmans LLP and Hong Kong Trade Development Council to examine the advantages of co-production with Hong Kong; the practical issues pertaining to such co-productions; and the strengths of Hong Kong as a film marketing and distribution centre.

Director Carol Lai will also share her professional views on Hong Kong-Canada and Hong Kong-China co-productions. She will also provide a practical guide for Canadian film professionals to venture into the China market.

End/ Tuesday, October 5, 2004
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Old December 7th, 2004, 02:07 AM   #7
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Why Isn't Maggie Cheung a Hollywood Star?
By Susan Dominus
14 November 2004
The New York Times

Having spent the greater part of the day indoors, giving back-to-back interviews about her latest film, ''Clean,'' at the Toronto International Film Festival, the actress Maggie Cheung exited the InterContinental Hotel to meet a spectacularly sunny early fall afternoon. As she strode through the doorway, she ran into a friend from a film shoot, and Cheung, possibly the most famous woman in China, chatted gaily in Cantonese with her colleague, casually standing on the sidewalk as if no one would notice. Close to a minute ticked by before one of the photographers lingering outside the hotel spotted her, possibly because Cheung was wearing Gucci sunglasses so large they were more like small, reflective plates perched on her fine face.

Once one photographer was up and snapping there were suddenly 2, then 4, then 16, until a swirling cloud of microphones and flashbulbs formed around her, gathering as if by some centripetal force, sucking in ever growing numbers of fans and quote seekers and photo snappers, most of them Asian cineastes in town for the festival.

Cheung, accustomed to such crowds, is also accustomed to having people materialize to help her through them, and a young Canadian woman working in public affairs for the festival took Cheung's arm uncertainly. Someone hailed a taxi, and Cheung made her way toward it, laughing lightly as she turned to wave goodbye to her friend. She didn't look as if she'd just escaped a claustrophobic clutch; she looked amused and a bit embarrassed, as if she'd just dashed through a funny little rain shower without an umbrella.

The barometer of public reception, for Cheung, is always uncertain in North America. In Hong Kong, where she has been a star since placing first runner-up in the 1983 Miss Hong Kong pageant at age 18, Cheung, now 40, once holed up in her apartment for three straight weeks to avoid the throng of photographers and reporters outside. In New York and Los Angeles, on the other hand, she is rarely approached even for an autograph, unless it's from an Asian tourist lucky enough to catch her on the street. She is also barely a recognizable face in Canada, which may explain why she allowed herself the luxury of some spontaneous streetside conversation, forgetting that a film festival subverts the normal laws governing her fame in this part of the world.

Cheung has been a fixture of Asian superstardom for 21 years and has won more acting awards in China than any other woman. She started out as Jackie Chan's long-suffering, slapsticky girlfriend, May, in the goofy action-oriented ''Police Story'' movies. (Chan said that when he first saw Cheung on Hong Kong TV, she struck him as someone who ''wouldn't mind me kicking her down a flight of stairs.'') Eventually tiring, as much physically as creatively, of action films, by the late 80's she had started working with the dreamy, painterly filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, trading her role as a plucky comic for more nuanced parts in films like ''As Tears Go By'' and ''In the Mood for Love'' -- women with a noirish unattainability or ingenues shedding their innocence. In the mid 90's, she crossed over to select Western audiences for the first time, working with the French director Olivier Assayas, whom she would eventually marry and who directed her recently in ''Clean,'' the film for which she won the best actress award at Cannes. For Cheung's Asian audiences, it's as if they've watched her morph over the years from Audrey Hepburn to Greta Garbo.

So why is it that American audiences know Cheung only vaguely, if at all, as the woman who fended off a torrent of arrows in the Chinese film ''Hero,'' which was a sleeper success in the United States this summer? It's somewhat mystifying that one of Asia's finest actresses is virtually unknown to Hollywood audiences, as if celebrity were the one export too fragile to make the 7,000-mile trip across the Pacific. Cheung's English, though accented, is fluent; her beauty, universal; her talent, unarguable -- the imprimatur of Cannes confirmed the cross-cultural appeal her Chinese fans have appreciated for decades. To wonder why Cheung isn't a Hollywood star is to wonder a bigger question: why hasn't any contemporary Asian actress become a major Hollywood star?

sitting comfortably in the lobby of the boutique hotel where she was staying in Toronto, Cheung, still wearing her sunglasses, didn't initially seem to find the question particularly compelling. ''I haven't really bothered to explore it, but maybe it's normal,'' she said. ''If you were making a Hong Kong film, what would you expect to do with Robert De Niro? He can play an American living in Hong Kong, but after that. . . . '' She lighted a cigarette, then thought for a moment. ''Then again, now there are so many Asians living abroad, it shouldn't really make a difference.''

In ''Clean,'' set mostly in Paris, Cheung plays a drug addict who is trying to recover so she can get her son back from the parents of the boy's father, who died of a drug overdose. The character, which Assayas, now her ex-husband, wrote specifically for Cheung, happens to be Chinese, but that's a minor aspect of her character, not the pivotal point of the plot: it's not a film about immigration or interracial relationships or cultural misunderstanding. In France, the film was widely distributed and hit No. 2 at the box office in Paris. Cheung's image appeared on the cover of every major French magazine, from Le Figaro's weekly supplement to the downtown Les Inrockuptibles. ''Ten years ago, I think audiences might have thought, What do I care about this Chinese woman?'' Cheung said. ''In Europe, we're about halfway there. But I think maybe American audiences still think that.''

Although she answered my questions about ''Clean,'' Cheung started out by deftly putting off all other queries, instead posing a rapid-fire series of girlish inquiries about her interviewer (marital status, job satisfaction, sibling rapport), behavior that's unusual in any interview subject, much less a celebrity. At first, it seemed a defensive ploy, but eventually she fell into an unguarded conversation about the dumping of men (''but let's not call it dumping''), Chinese astrology, her thoughts on having kids (not ready but unconcerned), her qualms about her resistance to marriage (temporarily single at 35 was one thing, she said, but alone at 45 -- ''I think, well, that wouldn't be very nice''). Raised in England, Cheung has the curiosity of a royal who has only recently been let out of the castle; the freedom of her relative anonymity in the West has still not lost its freshness.

At one point, a suited man from the hotel came over and politely apologized that he had to ask Cheung to put out her cigarette, a request that appeared to cause him some anguish. Cheung smiled sweetly at him, her uptilted face a vision of feminine charm, and asked if, Oh, just this once, she might be able to, since no one else was around. His face turned bright red, and it looked as if it might kill him to insist, but insist he did, at which point Cheung sweetly put it out. Forthright with women, she can't help being aware of the effect she has on men.

Assayas, a boyish 49-year-old well known in France for his cerebral films, says he was struck by Cheung's charisma the first time he saw her in person. ''The first time I met her was on a jury at the Venice Film Festival,'' he said when I met with him at a cafe near his home in Paris. ''We were introduced, and right away I saw in her something I had never seen in another actress. In retrospect, I don't know if it was love at first sight or something more serious.'' He paused, distracted by what he'd said. ''I guess it doesn't get much more serious than love at first sight,'' he mused, then laughed at himself and continued. ''I thought she had something that is fascinating, something I associate more with stars of the past -- she projected something entirely striking but also incredibly modern, like an up-to-date version of an old-fashioned film star. I realized I'd never once made movies with movie stars. I'd made movies with actresses.'' He cast Cheung to play a version of herself in the 1996 film ''Irma Vep,'' an independent movie that riffed off the French classic ''Les Vampires.'' The two fell in love and married in 1998, then grew apart and separated two years later.

On one of the last nights of the Toronto festival, Assayas joined Cheung and several other cast members from ''Clean'' at a restaurant for dinner. Everyone sat a bit awkwardly alongside a tall table, and the topic eventually turned to the early days of Assayas and Cheung's work together. Because he was drawn to her by her star quality, Assayas said, he was surprised to find in Cheung a performer whose charisma was completely uncoupled from the Western notion of celebrity, which holds that great performances demand indulgence and coddling. To the contrary, there's a diligence -- almost a dutifulness -- common to Cheung's circle of Hong Kong performers, most of whom put up with the industry's grueling production schedules. Cheung has raced her way through some 75 films, making as many as 11 in one year during the height of the Hong Kong film industry in the late 80's. ''You sleep in cars, you sleep on the set, anywhere you can,'' she said. Working on one of the ''Police Story'' films with Jackie Chan, she had to run through a stack of bed frames, several of which collapsed on her head, sending her to the hospital for 17 stitches.

That evening, Cheung, who wore her sunglasses even in the dark bar, was dressed, as usual, in black, her hair pulled off her face in a ponytail, tall boots adding height to her already long-limbed frame. As she headed out of the bar, a little on the early side because of her jet lag, the American director Harmony Korine, in town for the festival, was heading in, and he made a beeline for the actress, his head bobbing at about sternum height on Cheung. ''Ms. Cheung, I just wanted to tell you how much I admire your work,'' he said, and she smiled graciously, the very picture of cinematic royalty, before heading out onto a Toronto street where no one took note of who she was.

The claim that no Asian actresses are making it big in Hollywood inevitably invites counterexamples: Lucy Liu, a star of ''Charlie's Angels,'' for one, or Cheung's friend Michelle Yeoh, the former Bond girl. There's no denying that these women are stars, but they're stars of a specific sort: action heroes, variations of the old Asian warrior legends, exotic in both provenance and look. Penelope Cruz can play the romantic love interest opposite Tom Cruise, her accent nothing more than another adorable accouterment; Halle Berry, for better or worse, can get a film like ''Catwoman'' green-lighted. It's nearly impossible, however, to name a studio film in which an Asian-American actress plays the leading role, or the love interest, or even the love interest's best friend, outside of specifically Chinese films like ''The Joy Luck Club.''

Part of this disparity can be attributed to simple demographics: African-Americans represent 13 percent of the American population, Latino-Americans 14 percent, while Asians account for about 4 percent. But filmmakers don't even represent demographics faithfully, argues Jeff Yang, the author of ''Once Upon a Time in China,'' a book about Chinese cinema. ''Even in a movie set in the greater Bay Area,'' he says, ''where one out of three people is Asian-American, if you just look at the background scenes, the bystanders, there are almost no Asians at all. That's not just politically incorrect -- it's fundamentally, demographically, incorrect.''

Janet Yang (no relation to Jeff), who produced ''The People Vs. Larry Flynt'' and ''The Joy Luck Club,'' contends that geography and history place Asian actresses too far outside the range of the girl next door, practically a prerequisite for female superstardom in this country. ''Asia has been perceived as the enemy for many years,'' she adds. ''Look at all the past major wars -- World War II, Korea, then Vietnam. There's this crazy, deep-rooted bias.'' At the time she produced ''The Joy Luck Club'' in 1993, Yang thought the film was a breakthrough; now, she says, studios are even less likely to finance such a film, given the absence of a name-brand, non-Asian star. Richard Hicks, the president of the Casting Society of America, says he proposes Cheung to directors with some regularity: half the time, he says, logistics get in the way -- ''can we get her here by Thursday?'' -- but just as often his clients aren't interested in casting an Asian.

Cheung, for her part, has never been driven to disprove American audiences' stereotypes of Asian performers. To the contrary, she hasn't made much of an effort to break into Hollywood. She has never come to Los Angeles just to make the rounds and rarely makes herself available for auditions. Given the scarcity of roles she'd like to play, it has hardly been worth it to her to pursue Hollywood success, she said; her current schedule is demanding enough. When I met with her in Toronto, Cheung had made the 17-hour trip from Hong Kong to Canada for just four days and was quickly heading back for some professional obligations: a promised appearance at the opening of a store in Shanghai for Louis Vuitton, and then a couple of days of shooting for some mobile-phone ads and commercials for the Hong Kong audience.

Cheung's face is everywhere in Hong Kong. Head to the pharmacy, and she smiles at you from an Oil of Olay promotional ad behind the counter. Walk by the newsstand, and she's on the cover of Chinese Elle and on the billboards at the bus stop. An ad campaign she did for Ericsson hand-held phones in the late 90's was so successful it was cited as a case study in the Harvard Business Review. An entire row of DVD's is devoted to her at the massive HMV on the way to Victoria Park. Having significantly reduced the brutal pace of her filmmaking, Cheung continues to take on numerous promotions, figuring that it's easier to make money in a few days of empty work than in a few months of another action film.

In September, when I visited Cheung in Hong Kong, she had just returned from the Vuitton party in Shanghai -- a disaster, she said, with photographers popping out of nowhere at the arrival of her current boyfriend, Guillaume Brochard, a Frenchman with a jewelry business. She enjoyed only a few days of rest before the shoots for the mobile-phone ads. Out late the night before, she looked tired but still a good 10 years younger than her age. ''They don't know I was out last night,'' she whispered in English, as the mobile-phone reps scrambled around, trying to find appropriate pieces of wardrobe, while a makeup artist tended to her.

Cheung, who helped design her own theatrical makeup in ''Hero,'' occasionally took one brush or another from the makeup artist to do the work herself. Although she clearly knows what she's doing -- she teased her eyelashes out, transforming herself from the coolly disheveled Emily of ''Clean'' to the elegant beauty of ''In the Mood For Love'' -- makeup is her least favorite part of her job. During the shooting of ''In the Mood,'' for 15 months she went to bed at 8 a.m., was picked up at noon to arrive on set by 1 p.m. for hair and makeup, then shot until late in the night, a schedule that it's hard to imagine Nicole Kidman being asked to tolerate.

While her old friend Ray started pinning up her hair, Cheung ate a bowl of rice noodles and someone put in front of her a Hong Kong sweet -- a deep-fried French toast sandwich with peanut butter slathered in between, which she snacked on as Ray finished up. Cheung, who'd shown up in black clogs, jeans and a long-sleeved brown T-shirt, disappeared for an instant, returning in a slinky black dress for the shoot. It was a rapid-fire transformation that suddenly revealed the single curving line of her body.

In the next room, the shooting started, with Cheung holding the cellphone up to her face, propping one leg on a box, hoisting the dress up to show some leg, improvising on the various attitudes a cellphone can apparently inspire. Chatting between shots, Cheung talked about all the traveling she does, the regular 12-hour flights between Hong Kong and Paris, where she found an apartment a few years ago to escape the press. For most of her life, she has lived somewhere between two cultures: when she was 8, her family moved to Kent, England, where she lived until she was discovered on the street on a brief visit to Hong Kong when she was 17.

''No matter where I'm going, I feel like I'm leaving something behind,'' she said. ''Every time I get on a plane, I cry. The flight attendants on Cathay Pacific must think I'm mad.'' She laughed and did an imitation of herself sobbing into her flight pillow.

To Cheung, it seems unavoidable that an actress be ''sad deep down,'' not so much as a job requirement but as a result of the job itself. Through the roles, she said, ''you experience a lot more pain than normal people -- your mom dies, your dad dies, your boyfriend chucks you, you live in the street, and you're really going through these emotions. You're trying to know what it feels like to watch a man die in front of you, as if you've really lived it. Once that division is gone, it gets blurry -- you look back at a shoot and think, was I really that sad because in the film my boyfriend didn't like me -- or was it something else, something real?''

She dashed off for a few more moments of posing, all smiles and allure, before returning to finish her earlier thought. ''I think a lot of my sadness has to do with my mother,'' she said, giving the outlines of her mother's difficult life: an unwanted girl, she spent her days as a young child roaming the streets because her parents wouldn't let her inside except to sleep; she married a man who abandoned her for another woman and left her a single mother.

Someone from the shoot called to Cheung, and she flashed a bright smile. ''Sorry,'' she said, heading back to the shoot, untouchably glamorous once again. On a computer screen someone enlarged a close-up of Cheung's face resting on her hand, as the cameras continued to keep shooting, and the image stayed there for the rest of the shoot. It was a shot of a flawless, serious face, but a face that also looked ambiguously profound, the kind of face onto which its admirer could project seduction, or contemplation, or defiance, or sorrow.

Being a Hong Kong star has some of the advantages of being a Hollywood star, among them comparative luxury. Cheung's well-situated Hong Kong apartment is done up simply in natural woods and elegant beige, its floor-to-ceiling windows opening onto a stunning view of Repulse Bay below. The windows in the back of the apartment, tinted a dark color, reflect the downside of such celebrity: not long after Cheung moved in, photos of her inside her home started appearing in the local tabloids, shot from a strip of road half a mile away.

''If I was drinking something, they said, 'Oh, she got dumped, she's so miserable she's turning to drink,''' she said, pulling the shades down on that window as the sun set. ''Or if my mother and sister came over, they said, 'She's so miserable she needs her family to support her through this hard time.''' Cheung had the window treated, but the paparazzi -- who treat her particularly harshly because she rarely gives interviews -- kept up the bad press. One local magazine shot her current boyfriend leaving the apartment, then badly photo-shopped the image so it looked as if he were making an obscene gesture to photographers with his hand. Waiters and restaurateurs are forever tipping off the press so that when Cheung tries to leave a restaurant, a phalanx is waiting for her.

Even Assayas, from whom she's been separated for years, can't cross a hotel lobby in Shanghai without being swarmed, because of his former association with Cheung. ''In China, they care even more about their stars than in America,'' Assayas said, ''and they're also less shy about approaching them. I don't know what it is. It's less of an individualist society, maybe -- it's like they feel their stars belong to them, are part of the family -- they're someone in the family who made good, and they feel they belong to them.'' Assayas told me a story about accompanying Cheung to a restaurant and escorting her to the door of the ladies' room. ''She opened the door, the door closed behind her -- and then I just heard this girl start screaming,'' he said.

The costs of Cheung's celebrity don't come, however, with all the perks that offset those inconveniences for Hollywood stars. Her apartment is exquisitely placed but hardly vast, and no entourage follows her from shoot to shoot; on set, no luxury trailer allows her to get in character amid down throw pillows and freshly cut flowers. No one so much as tells her she's fabulous, she said, laughing, which is partly a cultural difference. ''Words like 'fabulous,' 'wonderful,' 'great,' 'absolutely gorgeous' -- they don't exist in Cantonese. It's good, or it's O.K. That's it. It's very blunt, Cantonese. I appreciate that there are no fake words, but it's hard to switch channels, sometimes, after I've spent time in France. I'm just learning to use more generous words myself -- but you know, 'gorgeous' -- I just can't go to that extreme.''

Cheung said she never wanted to be a movie star: she wanted to be a hairdresser. In the Western narrative of celebrity, the star burns for fame, works for it, dreams of it. Cheung, by contrast, was discovered on the street while visiting Hong Kong with her mother, then anointed the traditional Hong Kong way, through a beauty contest. Her fame seems disposable to her, even baffling. A kind of respectful acclaim, the kind musicians and authors and artists enjoy, would suit her better. It is not surprising to learn that Hollywood's more arbitrary systems are totally alien to her: for example, the dance of an agent soliciting scripts that his celebrity client will never get around to reading. Even something as basic as the audition is unfamiliar terrain. In Hong Kong, she has been handed every role she has played since she was 18.

Assayas says he thinks that for Cheung's own personal satisfaction, she has to keep making films in the West, to stretch herself and her acting, especially now that the Hong Kong film industry is in serious decline. He recognizes that the roles aren't there; that's why he wrote ''Clean,'' even as the relationship was ending, to showcase the talent that has nothing to do with cheongsams or Asian femininity. American producers do occasionally send Cheung scripts, but the independent films are always about, as she put it, ''ABC's,'' or ''American-born Chinese,'' struggling with their identity, and the Hollywood scripts feature dragon ladies or Chinatown mafia molls or martial artists or mysterious fortunetelling women. Right now the West, whether it's New York or Paris, represents freedom for Cheung, and to sacrifice that anonymity for an uninspiring role would be folly.

''Especially since Cannes, I have a nice feeling out in Hong Kong -- like Maggie is ours, and we're proud of her,'' she said. Shown a script for ''X2: X-Men United'' a few years back, she declined to pursue it, uninterested in the film itself. ''If I start making films like that, they won't be proud,'' she said. ''I'd feel like I was cheating. And I don't want half the world -- we have 1.3 billion people in China -- to know I'm cheating. That matters to me. I have more pride than that.''

Cheung often spends her nights e-mailing friends until 5 in the morning rather than going out on the town or to awards ceremonies or benefits. Occasionally, though, she meets up with friends at a restaurant with a private room. Toward the end of my visit, she picked me up, along with her boyfriend, in a van with covered windows and a driver who took us across the bay to the peninsula side of Hong Kong. Cheung, in sunglasses and boots, exited the car and started making the half-block walk toward the door. Around her, people started walking as if in slow motion, or stopped in their tracks altogether, so that it looked as if Cheung were moving at double speed. We took an elevator up 20 flights to Aqua, a sleek restaurant with interior spaces divided by doors that silently slide open upon approach and dizzying views of the glittering Hong Kong skyline beyond the bay, like New York's seen through a magnifying glass, perfect and arrogant and untouched.

''A couple of weeks ago, I was in a room like this, and suddenly it was like one of those gangster movies, you know?'' Cheung said, animated and confiding. ''The door flew open, and then'' -- she shaped her hand like a machine gun -- ''Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang! All these light bulbs started flashing. And then they were gone. My friends and I were like, What just happened?''

As Brochard chatted with a friend of Maggie's who'd just arrived, Cheung replied to a few last questions. Other than now -- she and Brochard seem particularly content -- when had she been happiest? Cheung thought for a moment, then described a time when she stopped acting for a long stretch and came to the States with a boyfriend, crashing at the home of one of his friends. With her boyfriend, Cheung went camping, stayed in hostels, learned to play a good game of pool and went bowling. ''It was heaven,'' she said. ''We were in Los Angeles. And we could go anywhere. No one had any idea who I was.''
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Old December 7th, 2004, 10:38 AM   #8
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^ Wow!

I really enjoyed reading this!

Maggie Cheung had always been my fav HK actress ')
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 07:04 AM   #9
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Hong Kong star Leung, US crime writer join forces

HONG KONG, Feb 21, 2006 (AFP) - Hong Kong film star Tony Leung Chiu-wai will star in an English-speaking film being penned by acclaimed American mystery writer Lawrence Block, the actor said Tuesday.

"I started reading (his) detective stories from more than 10 years ago. I've always wanted to change it and make it into a film based in Southeast Asia," Leung said.

The screen heart-throb said he met with the author last year while he was in New York and asked Block, who has written more than 50 books, to adapt one of his books into a screenplay.

"I asked whether he could write me a screenplay," Leung told AFP in an interview. "He's now writing it for me."

Leung said the film will be based in the United States. The original lead character will be changed from an American to an American-born Chinese, whom Leung will play.

He said it will be an English-speaking production but declined to disclose which book will be adapted.

The 43-year-old actor said he will also star in a police flick by Andrew Lau, whose smash-hit cop-thriller "Infernal Affairs" has been remade by Martin Scorsese.

Leung said he hoped some horror elements will be added into Lau's film, the title of which has yet to be decided.

Leung, who won a Best Actor award at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival for his role in Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood for Love," confirmed he will star in Hollywood action director John Woo's ambitious epic story "The Battle of the Red Cliff."

His next production with Wong will be a kung-fu movie about Bruce Lee's martial-arts master that will be set in the 1950s and 1960s. That movie's filming has been postponed, Leung said.
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 07:05 AM   #10
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Hong Kong hopes to revive ailing film industry

HONG KONG, Feb 21, 2006 (AFP) - Hong Kong film workers joined forces Tuesday to promote the city's largest entertainment event hoping to revive its ailing movie industry.

The second Hong Kong Entertainment Expo will be held March 10 through April 19 and will combine film, digital entertainment, music and TV productions.

The event will include the Hong Kong International Film Festival, which will showcase more than 200 movies, a movie trade market as well as local awards.

The push comes as the territory's film industry suffered its worst year in a decade in 2005 with plunging domestic box-office receipts and a decline in the number of local productions.

"We still have a good box-office record," said Raymond Chow, the head of local film giant Golden Harvest. "Although the number of productions has fallen ... this is in line with the trend shared by the rest of the world."

He said outstanding local talents, such as musician Peter Kam who won the Silver Bear for the best music for the film "Isabella" at last week's Berlin Film Festival, has given hopes that the industry will pull out of the mire.

Hong Kong released just 55 films last year, the lowest number in 10 years and well down from the 64 movies that hit cinema screens in 2004.

Piracy and the inability of moviemakers to meet the changing tastes of local audiences in the face of Hollywood blockbusters have been blamed for the decline.
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 07:06 AM   #11
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Hong Kong's 'Isabella' picks up best film music award at Berlin Film Festival
By MIN LEE
19 February 2006

HONG KONG (AP) - Hong Kong director Pang Ho-cheung's "Isabella" picked up the Silver Bear award for best film music at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, one of the highest foreign honors for a Chinese-language movie in recent years.

The only other east Asian movie in the main competition, "Invisible Waves," a Dutch, Thai and Hong Kong co-produced thriller, came up empty in awards announced in Berlin Saturday.

The composer for "Isabella," Peter Kam, said he took a minimalist approach in writing the score.

"I liked using a lot of music, very noisy music in my past movie scores, especially in Hong Kong, because we want the atmosphere to be stronger and more obvious. But what's different about this movie is, director Pang and I tried to use less music because we wanted to let the actors act," he told Sina.com in an interview broadcast on the Chinese news Web site.

Kam, also responsible for the score for Peter Chan's recent musical movie "Perhaps Love," said he listened to Portuguese fado music for inspiration.

"Isabella" is the story of a suspended police officer and his daughter set in the former Portuguese colony Macau, a now-Chinese territory situated near Hong Kong.

"We're not making genuine Portuguese music, but we used its spirit in the movie's score," Kam said.

In other Asian winners outside the main competition, Taiwan's "A Fish with a Smile," won the Special Prize of the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk for best short film and Korean director So Yong-kim's U.S.-Canadian production "In Between Days" won the FIPRESCI Forum prize, decided by The International Federation of Film Critics.

The Chinese-Italian film "Little Red Flowers" by director Zhang Yuan won the C.I.C.A.E. Panaroma prize, awarded by the International Confederation of Art Cinemas.

The Japanese movie "Dear Pyongyang" by Yang Yong-hi won the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema prize.

The Iranian film "Offside" by Jafar Panahi won the Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear.
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Old March 22nd, 2006, 06:10 AM   #12
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Actress Maggie Cheung calls for unity to save Hong Kong film industry

HONG KONG, March 20, 2006 (AFP) - Award-winning Hong Kong filmstar Maggie Cheung appealed Monday for the local media to help save the territory's struggling movie industry as she was voted most charismatic Chinese actress in an online poll.

Cheung, who won the best actress gong at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for her role in "Clean", criticised the press for putting down new actors at a time when the once-dynamic Hong Kong film industry is going through its worst time in a decade.

"I know that the Hong Kong film market is small but I hope the press will stop putting down local actors. Why can't we be united and work together to promote the Hong Kong film industry?" she said to an audience at the second Entertainment Expo, the southern Chinese territory's biggest entertainment event.

Cheung, 41, made her comments after she was voted the most charismatic Chinese actress by 43,000 people from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan in an online poll by Expo organisers.

Hong Kong heart-throb Tony Leung Chiu-wai of "In the Mood for Love" was voted the most charismatic actor, while directors Johnnie To of triad gangster flick "Election" and Tsui Hark of kung fu epic "Seven Swords" were both voted the most admired Chinese directors.

Hong Kong's main annual film awards will be handed out at another ceremony on April 8 which is also part of the month-long Expo.

Among the celebrities who attended the Expo, which runs for a month, was acclaimed "2046" and "In the Mood for Love" director Wong Kar-wai, action hero Jackie Chan, "The Lover" actor Tony Leung Ka-fai and "Infernal Affairs" director Andrew Lau.

Singers Jacky Cheung and Joey Yung also performed at the gala opening ceremony.

The Expo is hoped to provide a shot in the arm for the territory's ailing film industry which suffered its worst year in a decade in 2005 with plunging domestic box-office receipts and a decline in the number of local productions.

Hong Kong released just 55 films last year, the lowest number in 10 years and well down from the 64 movies that hit cinema screens in 2004.

Piracy and the inability of moviemakers to meet the changing tastes of local audiences in the face of Hollywood blockbusters have been blamed for the decline.
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Old March 22nd, 2006, 06:16 AM   #13
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Tony Leung, Jay Chou lined up for HK film projects

HONG KONG, March 20, 2006 (AFP) - The directors of smash Hong Kong cop-thriller "Infernal Affairs" are planning two projects this year to be co-produced with Chinese partners.

Andrew Lau and Alan Mak will begin shooting in May on "Behind the Sin", starring local heart-throb Tony Leung Chiu-wai, producer Media Asia said.

The movie, expected to cost 7.7 million US dollars, will tell the story of an investigation by a policeman and a private detective, of a murder of the officer's father-in-law, said Jeffrey Chan, head of distribution at Media Asia.

Chan said the duo's second project this year will be a period drama set in Hong Kong starring Taiwanese pop sensation Jay Chou.

Shooting will start in the second half of this year. The title and budget are yet to be decided, Chan said.

"Infernal Affairs" is meanwhile being remade by Martin Scorsese.
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 05:56 AM   #14
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Western film agents hit by piracy
Hong Kong Standard
Doug Crets
Thursday, 23 March, 2006

Western film agents in Hong Kong for an international film forum say they feel the impact of a growing piracy problem in the mainland.

Lack of information about the market and the increasing popularity of Asian films, especially local and mainland ones, are adding to their struggle to move more deeply into the Hong Kong market, they said on the third day of the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum.

"Today we have confirmation that the Asia market for us is hard to penetrate," said Frederic Theulier, executive for international sales at Hannibal Pictures.

"We are selling cheap and then there is a piracy problem on top of that," he said, adding that his company is prepared to sell movie rights to mainland distributors for up to 40 percent off the selling price in western markets.

But it has been difficult for him to feel reassured that he is selling to legitimate parties.

Theulier said he sold to a Chinese buyer Tuesday and was then told by reliable sources that the buyer might not be legitimate due to questions about the address of the company.

His company is investigating.

Another film agent has taken to asking buyers to secure a letter of credit at an international bank before she hands over the Independent Film and Television Alliance certificate.

"That ensures we get full payment for the release of any material," said Patti Rose, director of international sales at IDT, a California film seller.

She said she found a copy of Valiant, a movie released by parent company Vanguard, in the Ladies Market in Kowloon.

Piracy cost American filmmakers in Asia Pacific more than US$896 million (HK$6.99 billion) in 2004, according to the Motion Picture Association, Asia Pacific.

Imports account for more than 60 percent of Hong Kong's movie tastes. Revenue from non-Hong Kong films grew from US$64 million in 2001 to US$66 million in 2002.

US films make up 80 percent of that market, according to the US Commercial Service, which aids Americans in setting up businesses in Hong Kong.

But as piracy grows, movie dealers are becoming tentative in the market, according to dealers.

"Who it hurts in the end is the movie dealer," said Rami Rivera Frankl, who runs Hobokenwest, a DVD technology company with experience in creating anti-piracy software.

He spoke at the forum that is being held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Small to medium-sized movie dealers are suffering the most because of "razor-thin profit margins," Frankl said.

A movie distributor from Los Angeles, Pierre David, who owns Imagination Worldwide, said it is becoming increasingly difficult to sell film rights in the market because of the lack of knowledge about the everchanging regulations in China and the piracy situation in the mainland.

"China is a mystery," said David, who is in Hong Kong trying to pitch full distribution rights to Chinese buyers at about US$5,000 a film.

"One woman from Beijing said she only wanted Internet rights. I don't want to give only Internet rights," he said.

He added that he was intrigued by the number of Chinese buyers asking him questions about the market when he himself felt he didn't understand it.

"I think they are searching for their own market," David said.

The piracy problem has angered the global film industry and led to efforts by the United States and the European Union to combat the problem.

US President George W Bush recently signed the Stop Counterfeiting in Manufactured Goods Act, which is seen by some China watchers as a significant step in addressing the problem of infringement on intellectual property rights for products sold in China.

The anti-piracy and intellectual protection drive has sparked new initiatives in technology to thwart the piracy threat.

When film companies license video- on-demand products from large motion picture companies, they now go to a post-production company that specializes in encrypting data on DVDs.

These post-production houses compress files on DVDs that make them nearly impossible to decode.

One film agent attributed the difficulty in pitching to the Asian market, especially in Hong Kong, to the rising popularity of local films.

Recently, several Chinese films or films by Asian directors have received massive media attention worldwide.

Taiwanese director Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain about two gay cowboys won the best director accolade at the recent Oscarss ceremony amd actress Zhang Ziyi starred in an all- Chinese geisha lineup in Memoirs of a Geisha, a story about Japanese ladies- in-waiting living in World War II Japan.

The forum catalogue lists 25 Asian directors and screen writers, most of whom are from the mainland, Hong Kong or Taiwan, who are looking for financial support for their films or upcoming projects.
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Old March 30th, 2006, 05:17 PM   #15
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Jackie Chan Injured by Stuntman
28 March 2006

HONG KONG (AP) - A stuntman wearing the wrong shoes kicked Jackie Chan in the chest, sending the action star to the hospital for a checkup earlier this month.

"These things just happen," Chan said Tuesday on his Web site. "I always put safety first when filming, but still, sometimes things just go wrong. It was just an ordinary accident. The stuntman working with me had on the wrong shoes and I got hurt."

The 51-year-old actor was injured while shooting the action-comedy "Rob-B-Hood" in Hong Kong.

The injury was painful but doctors said Chan was in "good shape." He continued to feel pain for several days after the March 23 accident, but he is improving, according to the Web site.

Chan's films include the "Rush Hour" movies, "The Medallion" and "Shanghai Knights."
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Old April 1st, 2006, 06:48 PM   #16
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Chan Still in Pain From Chest Injury
1 April 2006

HONG KONG (AP) - Jackie Chan says he's still in pain from a recent chest injury sustained while filming his latest movie, "Rob-B-Hood."

"It's still swollen. It really hurts," the 51-year-old action star told reporters Friday at the opening festivities of a Hong Kong rugby tournament.

Chan, whose screen credits include roles in the "Rush Hour" movies, said an X-ray showed no broken bones but cartilage injury.

"Breathing hurts. ... It hurts to draw my fist. It's been hard filming fight scenes these past two days," he said.

Chan was injured March 23 when a stuntman wearing the wrong shoes kicked him.

He has suffered numerous injuries performing his own stunts.
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Old April 3rd, 2006, 04:38 PM   #17
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Can Hong Kong Produce New Jackie Chan?
By MIN LEE
3 April 2006

HONG KONG (AP) - "The Matrix" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" action director Yuen Wo-ping fears that Hong Kong may not be able to produce another Jackie Chan or Jet Li.

Yuen said Monday Hong Kongers tend to shy away from the hard work that martial arts training entails.

"More people learn martial arts in China. Hong Kong doesn't have another generation of action stars. Many people don't want to learn martial arts because it's too hard," Yuen said on the sidelines of a tribute to action choreographers organized by the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

Chan's action prowess came from training at a Peking Opera school while Li was a national martial arts champion in China.

Yuen named Chinese newcomer Wu Jing, who played a vicious killer in the recent "Sha Po Lang," as a promising talent.

He also praised Donnie Yen, who choreographed "Sha Po Lang."

"His fundamentals are really good," Yuen said. "He's willing to rack his brains in designing new moves."

Yuen, whose Hollywood credits also include "Kill Bill," said U.S. filmmakers were drawn to Hong Kong action style because they can't reproduce the same moves.

"Their action sequences aren't as diverse as ours," he said.

Yuen said he is currently working on two U.S. projects, one set in modern day and the other revolving around Snow White. He did not give further details.

Monday's tribute also honored Chan, "Hero" action director Ching Siu-tung, "Martial Law" star Sammo Hung and Lau Kar-leung.

Hung said he's gratified that action choreographers are getting more credit these days.

"Many years ago action choreographers weren't recognized for their blood and sweat. Gradually there were prizes recognizing action design. Gradually we have been comforted," he said.
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Old April 7th, 2006, 06:39 AM   #18
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Hong Kong star tapped for Hollywood's "Grudge 2"

HONG KONG, April 6, 2006 (AFP) - Hong Kong star Edison Chen will reportedly take the lead role in upcoming Hollywood blockbuster "The Grudge 2", the sequel to a remake of a popular Japanese horror film.

Several Hong Kong newspapers said the Canadian-born 25-year-old heartthrob will star alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", who also appeared in the first film, and Jennifer Beals.

"The Grudge 2" will be directed by Takashi Shimizu, who helmed the Japanese original "Ju-On" and the first English "Grudge".

The Oriental Daily News reported that Shimizu cast Chen after being impressed with his performance in Hong Kong smash hit "Initial D".

Filming reportedly will be begin in Japan next month.
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Old April 7th, 2006, 06:40 AM   #19
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Crime pays for Hong Kong's "Godfather" director Johnnie To

HONG KONG, April 6, 2006 (AFP) - For someone so closely linked to Hong Kong's ultra-violent action-drama movie genre, internationally acclaimed director Johnnie To cuts a remarkably sedate figure.

In scholarly rimless glasses, blue V-neck jumper and clean-cut hairstyle, To gives away little of the tough, deprived upbringing that informs films so stark and brutal they have been called the Chinese "Godfather" series.

But scratch the surface a little and the dark shadows that lurk in the imagination that created "Election 2", his latest gripping gangster drama which premiered this week, come to the surface.

"The most memorable thing about the place was the darkness everywhere," 51-year-old To, a darling of film festivals from Venice to Cannes, recalls of his childhood in the notorious Kowloon Walled City.

The decrepit tenement block was a semi-lawless Chinese-controlled enclave in the heart of urban British-ruled Hong Kong until 1994, a seedy dead-end where triads, drug addicts, pushers and prostitutes roamed free.

"During heavy rain, the water would reach up to our bed and all the dead rats would float to the surface in the flat," says To.

"There were a lot of little interesting details inside. We always saw the druggies lying dead on the narrow cobbled streets. Their bodies were often left there for one or two days until someone came and collected them.

"No one cared about them. Human lives did not matter in there, perhaps that's because people were poor," he recalls.

To has evoked the enclave's depravity and his other childhood experiences of the underworld in some of the city's best-known gritty crime thrillers in the past two decades, such as "Running Out of Time" and "Full-Time Killer".

Although he found early fame with comedies after starting out in the industry almost by accident, his forte was action set within the dark double-crossing world of Hong Kong infamous triad gangsters.

To believes the feared underworld mobsters represent an important part of Hong Kong's history. No matter how taboo the subject, their existence is undeniable, he says.

"No matter where we moved to, there was always going to be a lot of triad members around. I was probably influenced by this while I was growing up," he says while puffing on a cigar.

"There are so many different types of characters in the triads. That's why I choose to make films about them. They are like heroes; they have their regrets, there is life and death, brotherhood and friendship."

To's sequel to the popular "Election" movie, which competed at Cannes last year, takes his fascination with Hong Kong's underworld to its next logical step and explores how the triads cope under the iron rule of a Chinese regime that regained control of the city in 1997.

"That was a very key date for Hong Kong; it's a period that has a very important historic value. After 1997, Hong Kong people were at a loss," To says. "It was the same for the triads; what will their future hold? No one knows."

Such was the popularity of the first "Election" movie that tickets for the premiere on Tuesday of "Election 2" at the Hong Kong International Film Festival sold out within two hours.

-- 'You can only do such films in Hong Kong' --

The son of a builder and a factory worker and with 48 movies to his name, filmmaking was not what the young To expected of himself and he received no formal training.

At 17, he was only looking for a "nice" and well-paid job when he signed up for an acting class at a local television company, hoping he could find work behind the scenes.

He got into television production in the early 1970s and directed his first feature film in 1979 with martial arts thriller "Enigmatic Case". He set up his film production company Milkyway Image in 1996.

"It took time and filmmaking slowly grew on me, then I realised how important it is to me," he says.

To's films also won an international following. His superhero action fantasy, "The Heroic Trio" and its sequel "Executioners", were cult classics and inspired French director Olivier Assayas's "Irma Vep".

Many of his movies were openly commercial successes, especially his early comedies.

But To sees humour as "just a way to balance investors' confidence in the company", and says his passion remains the action-drama genre, which he says gives him the room for creativity, given full reign on such films as his 1999 crime thriller "The Mission" and "PTU" in 2003.

"Sometimes I really don't care whether the audience wants to see them. I don't care about the bosses. As long as I am given this budget, they shouldn't ask and care what I'm going to do with it. If they are okay with it, then it's okay with me," To says.

The director says he is not in a hurry for Hollywood prestige, although he claims to have received many offers.

Neither is he likely to look north to Beijing for fame, as many of his contemporaries have, for fear he will fall foul of communist censors.

"I would not compromise on the major principles. If you change 'Election' to suit China's regulations, you would not be allowed to call the characters triads and you would have to change most of the characters. That wouldn't work," he says.

"You can only do such films in Hong Kong. But do you believe the China audience would see it? I believe they would."
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Old April 7th, 2006, 06:40 AM   #20
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Martial arts epic fights musical romance at Hong Kong film awards

HONG KONG, April 6, 2006 (AFP) - Tsui Hark's martial arts epic "Seven Swords" faces fierce competition from Peter Chan Ho-sun's musical "Perhaps Love" at the territory's star-studded film awards on Saturday.

The two movies garnered 11 nominations each in top categories, including best film and best director, for the 25th Hong Kong Film Awards to be held before an audience of 6,000 at the Hong Kong Coliseum.

Stars including Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi and Korea's Jun Ji-hyun of hit movie "My Sassy Girl" are expected to walk the red carpet at the ceremony.

Switching between 1930s and modern-day China, "Perhaps Love" was the first Chinese musical made in 40 years, while "Seven Swords" was a box-office smash on the mainland.

Johnnie To's gangster flick "Election", and Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's car racing movie "Initial D" follow close behind with 10 nods each, also competing for the best film and director prizes.

"Initial D", an adaptation from Japanese comics, stars Taiwanese pop sensation Jay Chou who picked up a nomination for best new performer.

Action hero Jackie Chan's "The Myth", received four nominations including best film, while Derek Yee has been nominated in the best director category for "2 Young".

Tony Leung Ka-fai, who was given a suspended jail term for drink-driving in January, won two nominations, one in the best actor category for his fiery-tempered mobster role in "Election" and the other for his portrayal of a photographer in Stanley Kwan's "Everlasting Regret".

"Everlasting Regret", based on Wang Anyi's multi-award winning novel of the same name, was in competition in last year's Venice Film Festival and has six nominations for the Hong Kong awards.

Leung, who lost out in the best actor prize to "Divergence" star Aaron Kwok in last November's Taiwanese Golden Horse Film Awards, comes up against him again in the same category.

Leung is also vying with his fellow actor in "Election", Simon Yam, and "Wait 'Til You're Older" star Andy Lau for the category.

Chinese starlet Zhou Xun has been nominated in the best actress category for her role in "Perhaps Love", alongside Sylvia Chang in "Rice Rhapsody", Sammi Cheng in "Everlasting Regret", Karen Mok in "Wait 'Til You're Older" and "Home Sweet Home" star Karena Lam.

Martial arts fantasy epic "The Promise" by Chen Kaige picked up five nominations for its cinematography, art direction, costume and make-up design, as well as sound design and visual effects.

"The Promise" is China's biggest-budget movie, costing 40 million US dollars to make.

Peter Kam, who won the Silver Bear for best music for "Isabella" at this year's Berlin Film Festival, received a nomination for best original film score with co-composer Leon Ko for "Perhaps Love".

Although not as prestigious as the Golden Horse Awards, the Hong Kong Film Awards are considered among Chinese cinema's top accolades. Films must meet one of several criteria establishing a strong Hong Kong connection to be eligible.
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