HK gov’t funds SARS short pics

Films meant to boost morale

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s filmmakers have produced 11 shorts in response to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome that will show in pairs across theaters beginning Aug. 4. The films premiered on Monday at a free public outdoor screening, where the heads of 12 government departments — which subsidized the public service messages to the tune of $705,000 — and directors, including Fruit Chan and Tsui Hark, appeared.

In April, the Hong Kong Federation of Film Workers asked the government to pay for films that could help boost morale in the SARS-affected city. Although SARS has since subsided, the short films are no less relevant. Many convey messages about hope and keeping a positive outlook in difficult times.

Twelve directors were invited to submit one minute shorts and all did, with the exception of Wong Kar-wai, who was engaged on a film shoot. Wong did, however, name the series of films “1:99” in reference to the amount of bleach the government recommended to be mixed with water to sterilize homes during the outbreak.

“This has never been done before,” said John Sham, standing advisor for the Federation of Hong Kong Film Workers, which organized the project. “It’s great to see so many directors working for one cause, and for the government to pitch in like this.”

The films were a mixed lot. Tsui Hark and Brian Tse used animation; Johnnie To, together with Wai Ka-fai, made a bright, kitsch musical; Peter Chan employed a more serious tone, shooting in color, and black and white. Other directors include Teddy Chen, Stephen Chow, Joe Ma, Gordon Chan with Dante Lam, Mabel Cheung with Alex Law, and Andrew Lau with Alan Mak.

The films will also travel, showing before Jackie Chan actioner “The Medallion” when it opens in China on Saturday and also when the movie shows in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Japan.

After Aug. 16, the films will be shown during government time slots on television. A documentary showing the making of the shorts will also air on television. The documentary, together with the shorts, will be packaged onto DVDs.