Fest Traveler: Busan -- Asian Filmmaker of the Year: Tsui Hark

Tsui Hark is not entirely comfortable with kudos — while the Hong Kong helmer is delighted to receive the Asian Filmmaker of the Year award at the 16th Busan Film Festival, he sees awards as a challenge to go on to bigger and better things. Busan organizers say the helmer known for “A Chinese Ghost Story,” “Peking Opera Blues,” “The Swordsman” and “Seven Swords” has been given the award because he established Hong Kong film in the global market and rewrote the history of Hong Kong films.

“It’s really an honor, but I’m still thinking when you have something like this you have to push yourself and move forward. You have to prove you have the energy to do as good as before if not better,” says Tsui. “The challenge is to keep looking forward. I have to live up to the honor like this but be alert because it’s not like something to prove you’re safe. I’ll go on making movies. I have to remember to live up to that standard.”

Previous winners of the award include Iran’s Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Taiwan’s Hou Hsiao-hsien and Hong Kong multihyphenate Andy Lau.

Tsui is doing post-production on his 3D chopsocky epic “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate,” which will unspool on Imax in China as well as standard 3D digital on Dec. 18 — the first Chinese film to screen in Imax 3D.

Pic, about the hunt for a missing concubine, stars Jet Li, Zhou Xun, Chen Kun, Li Yuchun, Kwai Lun-mei and Mavis Fan, and is co-produced by China Film Group, SMG Pictures, Shine Show Interactive Media and Bona.

Tsui pioneered the Hong Kong New Wave in the 1980s, and runs Film Workshop, which he co-founded with his partner Nansun Shi.

Asked what his favorite movie is, Tsui gets animated. He is a fanatical moviegoer.

“Movies play an important factor in entertaining and inspiration of a person. I always look for a movie that generates that kind of energy.

I’m energized by that kind of creativity. I’m always looking for a certain movie and if that doesn’t exist in the market, then I will try and make it. It’s like cooking something that you like to eat, it’s an enjoyable process,” says Tsui.

One of the things he is fond of is revisiting other filmmakers’ work, including the films of Akira Kurosawa, and is rediscovering him of late.

“I’ve been watching him again recently and finding things I missed before. I like finding a new perspective. I’m going to look at Truffaut’s work, to re-evaluate his work. My favorite films are always ones that represents something,” he says, adding that “Shanghai Blues,” Film Workshop’s first production, will always mean a lot to him. “I never expected to own a company.”

Born in China in 1951, he spent the first few years of his life in Saigon, Vietnam, and studied film at the U. of Texas in Austin.

Among the milestones in his careers is “Once Upon a Time in China,” the first in a series of movies featuring Jet Li.

The Chinese market is booming these days, much of it because of an influx of talent and expertise from Hong Kong. Tsui says he is both optimistic and pessimistic about the business.

“On the one hand, China is increasing screens and the industry has grown, opening up a lot of possibilities for filmmakers. At the same time, there are more and more productions and we need more people to provide professional service and creativity,” he says, adding that the process of building up the industry will take time.

“I’m a filmmaker looking for a certain kind of ‘realism in creativity,’ ” he says. “We as filmmakers are always looking for new ways of telling of story. We are always looking for clues and for new elements and new passion.”

FEST TRAVELER: BUSAN INTL. FILM FESTIVAL
Fest maps new future | Regional leader | Hark made Hong Kong a global force | Q&A: Lee Yong-kwan

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