As filmmakers from all over the region gather for Hong Kong Filmart, the territory is fighting to keep its identity in the face of competition from mainland China and Taiwan. But the Hong Kong biz has found a way to thrive: Focus on pan-Chinese themes.

Hong Kong filmmakers are becoming more confident about negotiating the market in China, which is now central to the development of the local biz.

Look for major Hong Kong input into all the following projects coming this year from the booming China market: A film by helmer Feng Xiaogang, “1942,” with Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins among the cast; a project from “Let the Bullets Fly” helmer Jiang Wen that is expected to start shooting this year; the latest from Chen Kaige, now shooting in the Chinese city of Ningbo.

“Hong Kong’s relationship with China continues to be very important, because without the market in mainland China, it’s difficult to support the budgets,” says Ricky Tse, head of distribution and sales at Media Asia.

“In terms of exhibition, the Hong Kong film business is still healthy. In terms of production it’s quite dependent on the China market. More and more films are being shot and will be shot for mainland China audiences.”

These remain challenging times for the HK film business, says Albert Lee, prexy of EmperorMotion Pictures. The popularity of Hollywood films continues to pressure the local biz.

“Sometimes it’s not really a question of if your film is good or bad. The market is really small,” says Lee.

In addition, while Hong Kong is used to relying on Singapore and Taiwan as export markets for their titles, those territories are craving indigenous pics, especially comedies. “We want to retain the Hong Kong identity but need to find a way to do this that is accepted around the region,” says Lee.

Derek Tsang, who co-helmed “Lovers Discourse” with Jimmy Wan, believes that it is time for the Hong Kong biz to be considered part of the broader Chinese industry.

“We have to accept that Hong Kong is only a city in China. We don’t ever hear filmmakers in Hollywood only making films in L.A. or New York.

“Woody Allen once said he’ll only make New York films, but now he is making films around the world,” he says. “We should broaden our perspective and make Chinese films instead.”

Tsang has entered “The MacLennan Affair” in the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF). Pic deals with the controversy surrounding the death of a British police officer in Hong Kong in 1980.

“I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of potential investors or distributors who have shown interest in our project,” Tsang says. “Since we are looking for investment from aboard, given the colonial subject and the requirement of a large ensemble of Caucasian actors in our film, we hope Filmart and HAF can provide a good platform for us to reach out to foreign or mainly European investment.”

Hong Kong Filmart 2012
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