×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Golden Scene at 20: Diverse Past, Bright Future

Golden Scene, one of Asia’s most enduring independent film distributors, is known for its year-round billboards attached to bus shelters around Hong Kong, and also for the spot-on taste of founder Winnie Tsang.

Tsang started the company 20 years ago by snatching opportunity from adversity. Having risen from secretary to board member at the legendary Golden Harvest production to exhibition group, Tsang jumped in when the studio made a strategic decision to exit distribution.

She set up shop nearby in the Tsim Sha Tsui district and took with her a small staff. They handled distribution on behalf of Golden Harvest’s various labels and its sub-distribution relationship with UIP.
While benefitting from a steady supply of studio business, Tsang relished the freedom to make her own choices. “I could do anything, go anywhere, visit more festivals,” says Tsang. “I had less need to be commercial and instead could pick films that appealed to my own taste and those I thought could develop the Hong Kong audience.”

Mixing up U.S. indie titles with local Hong Kong movies, Golden Scene enjoyed early success with Japanese horror hit “The Ring.” It also pioneered the early 20th century wave of Asian diversity including Korean arthouse shocker “The Isle,” Thailand’s “The Iron Ladies” and “Dolls,” and “Nobody Knows” from Japan. Money flowed from the “Twilight” saga and “Rush Hour” franchises.

But Tsang says the most satisfying film she has handled was Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life.” Despite a plum Cannes berth it didn’t work in most territories. “We did Q&A sessions, we invited top critics, and really helped audiences to understand the movie. Our HK$3 million ($385,000) result was very gratifying,” says Tsang.

Tsang founded the company at a time of major upheaval for Hong Kong — and for Hong Kong cinema. The territory had returned to China in 1997, after 150 years of British colonial rule. Multiplexes were quickly replacing traditional cinemas, and at first they promised more choice and diversity, though that selection has narrowed in recent years. And in 2001, the private sector mainland Chinese industry was brought back to life through top-down reforms. Soon after, many Hong Kong filmmakers began to look across the border for their audience and their finance.

Those factors may have contributed to steadily declining performances by Hong Kong films in their home market, and increasing dominance by Hollywood. Tsang says that Hong Kong audiences still show little interest in films made for mainland Chinese films.

But, conscious that local films contribute to the overall health of the sector, Tsang plunged into production starting in 2007. “Hong Kong film was in poor condition. Many top directors no longer had a chance,” she says. Among her first productions was “Simply Actors,” co-directed by Patrick Leung and Chan Hing-ka and starring veteran stage actor Jim Chim. The delicious comedy takes the premise that undercover cops are losing their ability to stay underground because of their failing performance skills, and so they need to be sent to acting school. “It was a profitable, so I did more,” says Tsang, who also credits the leverage and financial support of the Film Development Council with keeping alive Hong Kong films’ distinct identity and local relevance.

As producer, Golden Scene has championed the careers of Chapman To, Stanley Kwan and Fruit Chan. As producer-distributor it has helped nurture Hong Kong’s new generation of filmmakers including Adam Wong (“The Way We Dance”), Steve Fat (“Weeds on Fire”) and Jevons Au (“Ten Years”). Tsang now leans heavily on talented nephew Felix Tsang in the production department.

Production has led to international sales, and Golden Scene shows up at Busan’s Asian Film Market with a slate bursting with titles that include Gala presentation “First Night Nerves,” the three new films in the “Ten Years” franchise, and the Anthony Wong-starring “Still Human.” Still, Tsang is open for new challenges. She says: “In Hong Kong it is difficult to find the right locations, but I’d really like to go into cinema operation next.”

More Film

  • Aruna and Her Palate review

    Berlin Film Review: ‘Aruna & Her Palate’

    When mouthwatering Indonesian cuisine and romance are on the table, “Aruna & Her Palate” is a bouncy crowd-pleaser. Less tasty is the backdrop of a suspected bird flu outbreak that brings a food-loving epidemiologist into contact with her secret crush. Adapted from Laksmi Pamuntjak’s 2014 novel “The Bird Woman’s Palate,” “Aruna” manages to overcome its [...]

  • 'Duke' Review: Two Fake Cops Patrol

    Film Review: 'Duke'

    If you can envision “Let’s Be Cops” reconstituted as a noirish psychodrama, you may be adequately prepared for “Duke,” an uneven but arresting indie thriller about two siblings who are driven to heroic extremes by childhood traumas. Co-directed by twin brothers James and Anthony Gaudioso, who also appear in strikingly different supporting roles, the film [...]

  • Greek Director Probes Deeper Issues in

    Greek Director Probes Deeper Issues in Berlin Festival Film 'Sargasso Sea'

    After a sudden suicide turns a small eel-farming town upside down, an investigation unearths troubling secrets about the town’s past. Those discoveries will bring together two women trapped in solitary lives, offering each a chance to find salvation. “The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea” is the third feature by Greek director Syllas Tzoumerkas. Starring frequent [...]

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    France's Cesar Awards Leads the Way for the Oscars

    Since 2011, France’s Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma has steadfastly held its annual awards ceremony the Friday before the Academy Awards. And if launching the Césars two days before the Oscars holds a real, practical benefit — allowing those walking both red carpets time to linger over their last flutes of Champagne before [...]

  • Australian Director Gameau Challenges Audiences to

    Australian Director Gameau Challenges Audiences to Improve the Planet

    Bright-eyed Australian director Damon Gameau set out in his previous movie, “That Sugar Film” to challenge everyday thoughtlessness about the dangers of our modern lifestyle — and became profoundly sick while doing so. In his new film “2040,” which plays in Berlin’s Generation Kplus section and which he styles as a “hybrid feature documentary,” Gameau [...]

  • WGA West Logo

    Writers Guild Sends Hollywood Agents Proposed Code of Conduct

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have sent Hollywood talent agencies a proposed “Code of Conduct” with tough new restrictions on how they operate as agents for writer clients. The WGA made the disclosure Thursday night in an email to its 12,000 members, a day after announcing that it will hold a March 25 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content