HKIFF 2012: an interview with Peter Chan Ho-sun (Filmmaker in Focus)
Born in Hong Kong and raised in Bangkok, Peter Chan Ho-sun studied
cinema in the United States at the UCLA film school before coming back
to his native country in the early 80's. He started work in the film
industry as an assistant to John Woo ("
Heroes Shed No Tears") and Jackie Chan ("
Project A II", "
Armour of God") before moving to the production field in 1989 (Samson Chiu's "
News Attacks"). Two years later he made his directorial debut with the drama "
Alan & Eric: Between Hello and Goodbye".
later co-founded U.F.O. (United Filmmakers Organisation) and produced
around 20 movies within five years, including his own successful "
He's a Woman, She's a Man" (1994) starring Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui. In 1997, his movie "
Comrades, a Love Story" was named one of Time Magazine's 10 Best Movies of the Year, and it also won nine Hong Kong Film Awards.
After the 1997 handover, Peter Chan moved to Hollywood to make "
The Love Letter",
produced by Spielberg's Dreamworks. He moved back to Hong Kong in 2000
and set up Applause Pictures. To re-boost the local industry, he
started making co-productions with Thailand ("
Jan Dara"), South Korea ("
One Fine Spring Day") and China ("
The Marriage Certificate").
He also produced the horror panasian omnibus movies "
Three" and "Three...Extremes"and big-budget movies in China such as the musical "
Perhaps Love" (2005), martial arts epic "
The Warlords" (2007) and more recently "
Wu Xia" (2011).
12 films directed and/or produced by Chan were screened March 22-April 3, 2012 at the 36th
Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF)section "
Filmmaker in Focus". The following short, improvised interview was conducted during the
Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF)party, just after the screening of the
HKIFF opening film (Pang Ho-cheung's "
Love in the Buff") and a few days before the launch of the
Peter Chan exhibition at the Hong Kong Cultural Center.
It's been a while I think, probably six, seven months ago. I didn't
know quite what to make of it or what it means to me. I accept it. In
the past six months, through working on the book and giving interviews
and doing stuff on my part, I started to pick up more of an
understanding of what it could mean to me. And it turned out to be a
very rewarding experience because it takes me back down my own memory
lane and goes back to my roots; how I worked, and how I got to be where I
am today. And also it's a sort of re-evaluation of the first half of my
life and career, and also to re-evaluate myself to decide what I should
be doing next.
I wish that it were so simple that we do something and it works, and
then we could continue to do it. First of all, the market situation
would not permit that. The market is changing very rapidly and changing
all the time. And it's almost like, if something works, you have to
change immediately. It's not like you can actually ride on the past
successes or formulas that you have. So every movie we need to reinvent
ourselves, which is difficult. And at the same time, as a filmmaker if
you don't try to reinvent yourself, you can't challenge yourself and if
you don't challenge yourself, you don't have the passion. And if you
don't have the passion you don't have the spark and you can't make
better movies. So in a way, I do not consider any of my past work to be
monumental enough to be able to continue to do it. What happened is that
it's a very difficult and tough business. To move ahead in the ever
difficult enviroment of making Chinese language movies, especially
mainland Chinese-Hong Kong co-productions, we just have to keep thinking
of new ideas, ideas that are not too repetitious, but also ideas that
are not too new so that the audience can follow. That's pretty tough.
The Hong Kong identity is in my blood. It doesn't matter what I make or
where I make movies, the core value system, the attitude, and the
aesthetics will always be Hong Kong. That peculiar Hong Kong attitude
and aesthetics will never change, even if I make an English language
movie or a French language movie. So it doesn't matter what we do, and
it doesn't matter what the censorship restrictions are, and it doesn't
matter who the market is for. You don't have to do a movie in Cantonese
to be "Hong Kong" because the Hong Kong-ness is in my system. It will
PC: I was a big Shaw
Brothers movie fan. Even though I didn't quite identify myself as a
kung-fu film fan, which I wasn't. But no kids born in the 50's or 60's
could ignore Chang Cheh or the Shaw Brothers martial arts films. It
doesn't matter if you grow up to make love stories, dramas, romances or
even art films, we've all grown up watching action movies from Chang
Cheh, and the kind of heroism he's so good with, and all his big screen
idols from Jimmy Wang Yu to David Chiang to Ti Lung: it was just a part
of our growing up.