Hong Kong movie industry went downhill historically in 2005 with the output of just 47 local films and the box office of less than 300 million HK dollars (US$38.71 million).
Compared with previous years when 300 or 400 films were produced annually, it was a bitter humiliation. Pessimism prevails the circle as someone says Hong Kong's movie industry is going to its doom.
But Eric Tsang does not believe it. The famous actor and producer, who has witnessed the ups and downs of Hong Kong's movie industry all these years, said the backflow of talents may save the industry on the wane.
"Drain on talents largely accounts for the decline of Hong Kong's movie industry," Tsang told Xinhua News Agency. As international cooperation is closely interlaced, a large number of superb local filmmakers have been allured to Hollywood.
Take action movie as an example. In the old days when 300 or 400 local movies were produced per year, at least one third of them were action movies. Those directors were usually action designers as well. They were so creative and talented, bringing a golden age in Hong Kong's movie history.
"But now, most of them have moved to the United States. In Hollywood, they can earn quite comfortable by just doing as action designers. Life is easy there, so they do not want to be back. You see, the number of local action movies plummet drastically these years," Tsang said.
But Jackie Chan returned. This Gongfu emperor in movies, who had done so successfully in the United States, returned to Hong Kong, where he was born and grew up, doing his best to rejuvenate Hong Kong's movie industry.
"This is why I respect him," Tsang said. "Jackie is the one who has true passion for Chinese films."
There is some good news. John Woo, who has gained huge reputation in Hollywood by directing films like Broken Arrow, Face/ Off and Mission Impossible II, will come back to direct a Chinese film War of Chi Bi. Another superstar, Chow Yun-Fat, who starred in Oscar winner Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, will also return this year to have a leading role in a Chinese film Auntie's Post-modernized life.
"I hope more people would follow their suit, and finally raise a tide of 'talent backflow'", Tsang said. "After years of running away from hometown, it's time to return."
In addition to the return of movie veterans, it is also of great imminence to foster the younger generation of filmmakers. “There exists a major crack for the time being. The older generation is still seeking wonders in the outside world while the younger echelon remains too weak to undertake the mission of rejuvenating Hong Kong's movie industry," Tsang said.
But he did not think the talent vacuum would last long. "In a couple of years, the vacuum will be filled."
Besides talent problems, to explore a wider market for films of medium-sized investment is another remedy to the sick industry.
Tsang is strongly against the opinion, which is widely accepted in the coterie, that nothing but super-large investment could attract audience back to cinema.
"It's awful to have such an idea. Actually, medium-sized investment films, namely between six to 15 million HK dollars, are the true backbone of the market. Turning a blind eye to it will lead to a definite risk," Tsang said.
Just because of this, Taiwan movie industry got into recession in the 1980s, and so is the situation for the mainland movies now.
"We have super-large productions with over 100 million HK dollars investment, and we also have small productions with only two or three million HK dollars investment, but where are the market for the medium-sized investment? That's the problem, and we have to solve it," Tsang said.
While talking about the invasion from Hollywood and neo-filmmakers like Japan and South Korea, Tsang revealed an idea that has long wandered in his mind. "Why not combining the resources of Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan to produce Chinese films in the real sense? It's a great power, and can be sure to resist the exotic challenges."
It's a pity there is no such a composition of force yet. "We are still saying 'Chinese mainland movie', 'Hong Kong movie' and 'Taiwan movie', but have you ever heard of 'New York movie', 'Los Angeles movie' or 'Hawaii movie'?" Tsang asked.
"I hope one day, we will have a common name 'Chinese movie'. Let's work hand in hand, shooting Chinese movies and earning world money," he said.
As more and more people complain that Hong Kong movies are not as interesting as before, Tsang looked worried. "That's largely the result of restrictions set by the authorities," he said.
In the past, Hong Kong movies were so welcomed in the mainland because there were no restrictions on content, theme and ways of displaying. Filmmakers were free to express and show their artistic talents, so films of that time were full of fun and surprise. But now, things have changed.
"When we are shooting a cooperative movie, we are always troubled by restrictions. We cannot do this, we can not do that. Finally, the movie turns out boring," Tsang said.
He hoped the authorities would have more trust in filmmakers. "Be more tolerant and open-minded, it will do good for all," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency January 9, 2006)