Spotlight: Hong Kong talent

SOI CHEANG
Director-writer
Chinese name: Cheang Pou-soi
The Story So Far: After starting in the industry in the mid-’90s, Cheang attracted Asian cinema buff interest with two highly inventive low-budgeters, “Diamond Hill” (2000) and “Horror Hotline … Big Head Monster” (2001). But after making several local horror films and romantic comedies, he returned to the outre style that first drew him attention with the crime thriller “Dog Bite Dog” (2006) and violent manga adaptation “Shamo” (2007). Cheang is a rare Hong Kong filmer to show the devil-may-care style of classic H.K. cinema, and only needs more script discipline to make the breakout movie he deserves. Out soon: hitman thriller “Accident,” produced by Johnnie To.

IVY HO
Director-writer-author
Chinese name: Ho Sai-ong
Professional alias: On Sai
The Story So Far: After starting in TV while still in her teens and then moving into films, Ho has been the scriptwriter behind some of Hong Kong’s most intelligent commercial movies for more than 10 years, starting with Peter Chan’s “Comrades, Almost a Love Story” (1996) and continuing with “The Age of Miracles,” two of Jackie Chan’s best vehicles (“Gorgeous,” “The Accidental Spy”), Ann Hui’s “July Rhapsody” and Benny Chan’s taut crimer, “Divergence.” She’s especially good at high-concept ideas and reinventing tired formulas with convincing emotional arcs linked to contempo Hong Kong. It’s as a director that she’s now a name to watch, finally debuting in 2008 with “Claustrophobia,” about the internal emotional lives of a bunch of high-achievers, told (like Pinter’s “Betrayal”) in reverse. Her second pic, “Crossing Hennessy,” now in production, will be the first outing for mainland actress Tang Wei (“Lust, Caution”) since she relocated to Hong Kong.

ISABELLA LEONG
Actress
Chinese name: Leung Lok-si
Birth name: Luisa Isabella Nolasco da Silva
The Story So Far: Born to a Portuguese father and half-English/half-Chinese mother, Leong started as a teenage model and singer before rapidly passing through TV en route to her screen debut in quickie chiller “The Eye 10” (2005). After several other ho-hum roles, the leggy Leong finally proved she could act in maverick Edmond Pang’s “Isabella” (2006), as an impish young woman who has a one-night stand with a corrupt, drunken cop in Macau (where, coincidentally, Leong grew up). Since then her career has wandered — Taiwanese lesbian meller “Spider Lillies,” Tsui Hark’s “Missing” — and only last year did she finally settle a long dispute with Emperor Entertainment Group over a restrictive contract she signed when age 12. Her immense screen potential has so far remained untapped, including in her first Hollywood outing, “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” in which she played a sexy witch.

KATE TSUI
Actress
Chinese name: Tsui Tsz-shan
The Story So Far: After studying in Hong Kong, Tsui graduated from UC Davis, majoring in Japanese, won several titles in Hong Kong beauty pageants in 2004-05 and then joined TVB, acting in drama series. She made an impressive debut as a rookie surveillance cop on “Eye in the Sky” (2007), for which she won best new performer at the Hong Kong Film Awards, made a memorable impression as Richie Jen’s athletic g.f. in the China-set romantic comedy “Contract Lover” and was part of a strong supporting cast in the otherwise misconceived crimer “Lady Cop and Papa Crook.” With her strikingly different looks and sparky presence, Tsui just needs the right vehicle to launch her beyond supporting roles.

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