Hong Kong film director Philip Yung and his cast were in Shanghai on Monday to promote their upcoming film “Where the Wind Blows.” They revealed new details while cautiously sidestepping — for the most part — the awkward issue of last week’s massive civil protests in Hong Kong against a controversial bill that would have deepen ties with China, which have been entirely censored from mainland Chinese media.
The film, which used to be titled “Theory of Ambitions” in English, stars Hong Kong’s Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Aaron Kwok, Patrick Tam and Michael Chow and Chinese actress Du Juan. The actors play four notoriously corrupt police officers who rose to power in 1960s Hong Kong, and Du one of their wives. The stylish crime thriller covers a particularly long time span, said Kwok, saying he had to play officer Lui Lok from age 20 up until around 80.
“As a born and bred Hong Konger, this Hong Kong story had a different kind of meaning for me and aroused different kinds of feelings. The colors, the events — I have a deep connection to them, so to act in this sort of Hong Kong tale is meaningful in a different way,” Leung said at a Dadi press conference and gala on the sidelines of the Shanghai International Film Festival.
His comment comes the day after what organizers estimate as nearly two million people — more than a quarter of Hong Kong’s total population — took to the streets to protest an extradition law and call for the resignation of Carrie Lam, the city’s Beijing-designated leader who had pushed it forward. It was the third major demonstration in the span of just a week. Critics of the law are concerned that it would mean anyone displeasing to China’s ruling Communist Party could be removed to the mainland, where courts have a more than 99% conviction rate.
Yung also spoke of his pride in his Hong Kong identity. “I grew up in Hong Kong and like to shoot Hong Kong films… I have a lot of feelings for Hong Kong,” he said, before stating obliquely: “I hope Hong Kong films can be well, and I hope Hong Kong can be well. Many things have happened… but well, I won’t talk about it today.”
Hong Kong cinema is increasingly drawn to and dependent on China’s deep pockets and enormous box office, with most of its production power now focused on creating films that can also appeal to mainland audiences.
Leung said he was drawn to the project because he loved Yung’s last film “Port of Call,” but a big challenge was that to do so he’d been ask to accomplish what he imagined would be an “impossible task” — learning to play the piano.
“I have to play in the film – and not just one song, but three. The first two are alright, because they’re classical, but the last one is jazz. It seemed impossible to learn to do it in such a short time. In the end, I asked them to put a piano out for me to practice on wherever we were shooting,” he said. The crew used an old instrument that had the right sound to fit the time period.
Yung laughed that Leung “wanted to kill me,” calling every evening in frustration during the three months he was practicing for up to ten hours a day. Kwok said he “truly admired” Leung’s efforts to learn to play, saying “all that time he spent to get this right really shows his commitment to his job.” When asked why the two hadn’t collaborated together before, he laughed and chalked it up to “fate.”
Du had to learn Cantonese for her role, and Kwok teased her about her proficiency before admitting that eventually “she really held her own” with the dialect.
Dadi also presented the other films in its line-up, which include two forthcoming titles from veteran producer Terence Chang: love story “Town Without Pity” and another whose title roughly translates to “Dad is a Dog,” about a father who somehow winds up in canine form. The latter has chosen most of its core team but has yet to formally sign many of them, Chang said.
“Pity” is directed by cinematographer Zhao Fei, a frequent collaborator of China’s fifth generation filmmakers like Zhang Yimou, Feng Xiaogang and Chen Kaige. It stars Fu Guanming (“Dying to Survive”), Lu Fangsheng and Zhang Jingchu, who has also worked with Chang on upcoming rescue film “Wings Over Everest” and 2017’s “The Adventurers.”
“It’s a very deep love story. That’s what attracted me the most” to the project, said Chang.
Yung also announced another feature that he will direct, starring actress Yao Chen, who is sometimes referred to as China’s Angelina Jolie. The true life crime drama due in 2020 has a title that that poetically translates as “Osmanthus Flowers Floating Through the Village.”