LAI BACK AND ENJOYS IT

H.K. performer's fans mob UCLA fest

Screaming fans accompanied the opening of UCLA’s Made in Hong Kong film festival Thursday evening, as Canto-pop music star and actor Leon Lai made a rare U.S. appearance for the screening of his film “Comrades: A Love Story,” from up-and-coming Hong Kong director Peter Chan.

A police escort for Lai did nothing to deter fans from mobbing him outside the opening reception area. The film played to a packed audience, and demand caused a second screening to be added that evening.

The pic, which showed in Hong Kong earlier this year, was picked up by Rim Film Distributors and is playing the fest circuit, including San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia and the Asia Society in New York, as well as select client venues, according to Mike Arnold, Rim head of distribution.

Story focuses on the melodramatic yet touching relationship of two immigrants from Mainland China to Hong Kong and finally the U.S. Maggie Cheung and Lai star as the two immigrants.

Among those in attendance at the opening were: Golden Harvest Film senior VP Tom Gray and VP Roberta Chin, who produce Jackie Chan’s films; Hong Kong actress Irene Tsu, who plays a nutty aunt in “Comrades”; and Hong Kong actress Lisa Lu, who starred in Clara Law’s “Last Temptation of a Monk.”

Director Peter Chan commented that he was glad to be back at UCLA, pointing out that he was rejected by the film school there and went into the restaurant management program instead. In 1991 he started the independent production company UFO in Hong Kong, and has directed six films under that banner, as well as producing four others.

The festival, presented by the UCLA Film and Television Archive in association with the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, continues through May 1, when Tsui Hark ends the program with “The Blade.”

The Film and TV Archive also hosts the annual “Electric Shadows: A Festival of Pan-Asian Cinema” in summer, which premieres work of well-known directors and shows ground-breaking work by virtual unknowns.

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