You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Men on the Dragon’ Invigorates Hong Kong’s Indie Scene

Upbeat Hong Kong stories that bring audience laughter and optimism rather than highly stylized dramas about heavy subjects could be the antidote for an industry struggling with its identity in the post-handover era, according “Men on the Dragon” director Sunny Chan.

The local drama has garnered more than HK$9.5 million ($1.2 million) since its Aug. 2 release. Produced by One Cool Picture, and directed Chan, a long-time screenwriter making his directorial debut, “Men on the Dragon” is the best-performing Hong Kong movie locally this summer.

“Men on the Dragon,” a seemingly ordinary story about middle-age men taking part in a company dragon boat race to avoid being sacked, has received strong word-of-mouth among not only critics but general audiences who have complimented the movie on social media for its positive message amid the ongoing political turmoil in Hong Kong.

Compared with recent successful examples by new Hong Kong directors such as “Mad World” (2017), “Ten Years” (2015), “Trivisa” (2016) and “Tomorrow Is Another Day” (2018), “Men on the Dragon” is less gloomy and more uplifting, says Chan, who set out to make a commercial film that people like.

Chan, who has been writing scripts since 2000 and contributed to commercial titles such as “Monster Hunt 2,” says the reality of Hong Kong cinema today does not allow filmmakers to raise a big budget unless it’s a co-production. Thus, he said, topical subject matters, stylized narrative and cinematography are needed to dress the film up.

“Ten Years,” a dystopian film about Hong Kong’s future as Beijing tightens control over the city, earned about $764,297 in the box office. “Mad World,” which tells the story about bipolar disorder and poverty, earned $2 million.

But Chan says the mainstream audience wants something different in the long run. “These films will have support but at the end of the day most people still see movies as entertainment,” he says.

“Men on the Dragon” had a budget of $2 million, including a portion coming from Film Development Fund and an ensemble cast of household names including Francis Ng. Chan says compared to other recent Hong Kong films by first-time directors, the budget is bigger.

He had another luxury, which is time. He wrote the first draft of the script in 2004. The final version was the 11th draft. He says One Cool Film did not interfere the creative direction and the company was convinced that the film has potential and went on to find more investors.

“I feel that we now need stories with more classic themes, but details in the characterization, story development and scene design have to be new. There is no need to be exaggerating or experimental for the sake of it,” Chan says. “I’m considering a sequel. The team wants to work together again.”

More Film

  • 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Weaves Inclusive

    The Secret Power of 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Is Inclusion

    In a year that gave us films like “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” this weekend’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” delivers one more home run for underrepresented groups in media in 2018. An animated film that takes advantage of Sony’s piece of the Marvel pie, “Spider-Verse” not only puts a mixed-race, middle-class teenager in the [...]

  • Jeff BridgesJeff Bridges, who stars in

    Jeff Bridges to Receive Cecil B. DeMille Award at 2019 Golden Globes

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced that Jeff Bridges will receive the Cecil B. DeMille award at the 76th Golden Globes on Jan. 6, 2019. Bridges has starred in films like “The Big Lebowski,” “Crazy Heart,” “True Grit,” and “The Fabulous Baker Boys.” “The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is delighted to bestow the 2019 [...]

  • Charlotte Rampling Euphoria

    Berlin Film Festival: Charlotte Rampling to Receive Honorary Golden Bear

    Oscar-nominated actress Charlotte Rampling, whose career has spanned more than 100 film and television roles, will be honored with a special Golden Bear at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. The fest will also pay homage to Rampling by screening a selection of her work, including Sidney Lumet’s “The Verdict” (1982), Francois Ozon’s “Swimming Pool” (2003) [...]

  • The Sisters Brothers

    France's Lumieres Awards Unveil Nominations

    Jacques Audiard’s “The Sisters Brothers” has been nominated for best film and director at the 24th Lumieres Awards, France’s equivalent of the Golden Globes. The Western starring Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly and Jake Gyllenhaal world-premiered at Venice Film Festival, where it earned Audiard a best director award. Produced by Paris-based company Why Not, “The [...]

  • CAA to Represent Peter Chan's We

    CAA to Represent Peter Chan's We Pictures

    Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has signed with We Pictures, the production and distribution company founded by Hong Kong-born director and producer Peter Chan Ho-sun. It aims to boost the company’s footprint both in China and abroad. Within China, CAA China will help We Pictures to develop new business partnerships and find new sources of investment [...]

  • Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley to Receive

    'Carol' Producers Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley to Be Honored by BAFTA

    Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley, the producers of such films as “Carol,” “Their Finest” and the recent “Colette” starring Keira Knightley, will receive the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema Award at the BAFTA Film Awards. The prolific pair run Number 9 Films and have a long list of credits. They will pick up their accolade at [...]


    Korea Box Office: 'Rhapsody' Reclaims Top Spot, Beats ‘Spider-Verse’

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” reclaimed top place at the South Korean box office, overtaking “Default,” after spending two weekends in second place. The Fox release earned $4.38 million from 554,000 admissions for a total of $61.0 million from 7.94 million admissions. In its seventh weekend of release “Rhapsody” accounted for 27% of the weekend box office. CJ [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content