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Busan: Stress and Sexuality on the Agenda for Stanley Kwan, Sammi Cheng

Gigi Leung speaks at press conference
Photo: Sasha Don for Variety

Stanley Kwan and Hong Kong star actress Sammi Cheng spoke Friday at the Busan International Film Festival of the physical pain of performance.

The director and co-star of “First Night Nerves” reminisced about Kwan’s previous Busan title “Everlasting Regret,” some 13 years ago. “Last time I was here, I was quite sick. I think I threw myself in too deeply to the film and the character,” said Cheng. “Since then. I’ve had time to recover.”

“In ‘Everlasting Regret,’ Sammi got too far into the film and suffered both mentally and physically,” Kwan said.

But with “First Night Nerves” portraying a transgender stage director and containing multiple LGBT plot points, the conversation returned several times to sex, homosexuality and gender identity.

“My friends ask me if this film means that I want to be transgender. No. I prefer to live as a man with femininity and sensitivity. I’m a hermaphrodite,” said Kwan. “My biggest rival is myself. In the film the women have their own pain.

“In some ways the character of the director (played by Kam Kwok-leung) is trapped inside herself. In other ways she is more disappointed by herself,” said Kwan.

Kwan spoke eloquently about the relationship between the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese movie industries. “Ten years ago, when Hong Kong directors were only beginning to work in China, the Hong Kong industry was well-established, and had the upper hand over China in terms of commercial movies. Now it is interesting to see how far the Chinese industry has come. Its box office is set to overtake America’s and commercial films are so well made that Hong Kong people are being pushed to the edges of the industry now.”

Despite that insight, Kwan, Cheng, Gigi Leung, Angie Chiu and mainland actress Bai Baihe all felt unable to deal with a question about the tax and financing scandals that are currently overwhelming the Chinese film industry, in the wake of the Fan Bingbing tax evasion confession. “It is somebody else’s problem,” said Bai.

Kwan further defied credibility with his response to Variety’s question. “The other actresses don’t know much about it, because they mostly work in Hong Kong.”

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