An influential film association in Hong Kong has drawn fire for asking its members to think twice about joining a high-profile film festival in Taiwan amid a Beijing boycott.
The Hong Kong Motion Picture Industry Association (MPIA) this week sent an email to remind filmmakers that mainland representatives would not attend the annual Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, dubbed the ‘Chinese-language Oscars’, in November.
The association said some Hong Kong companies had also followed suit and urged members to “carefully consider self-interest in deciding whether or not to join, to avoid unnecessary loss”.
A screen capture of the email was published on popular Facebook page “Hong Kong Movies Never Die” – a platform with more than 30,900 followers – in a post titled “political white terror officially enters Hong Kong’s film sector”.
The post stated: “Does self-censorship have to reach this level in Hong Kong these days? After the film is produced, the freedom to take part in which award ceremony still needs to be restricted?”
But MPIA’s chairman Crucindo Hung Cho-sing defended the move, saying the intention was to safeguard the interest of its 175 company members after the board of directors discussed the matter.
“Considering that maybe some medium and relatively small filmmakers haven’t paid much attention to messages outside due to busy work schedules ... and to safeguard members’ interests, I reminded everyone that there is such an incident,” he said.
He said the association would not stop members from going to the Taiwanese festival, but as a chairman he had the responsibility to issue a reminder.
“Hong Kong’s film market is far from the mainland market. Without the mainland market, a movie cannot start and earn back its cost,” Hung added.
Earlier, statewide broadcaster CCTV said the mainland ban was a reaction to last year’s Golden Horse Awards ceremony, during which Taiwan-born documentary director Fu Yue spoke of her desire for the island to one day become an independent country.
According to Taiwanese news site Line Today, Beijing warned Hong Kong filmmakers that their works would not be screened on the mainland if they took part in the awards, and that any stars who attended would be put on a watch list.
Prominent Hong Kong film production companies Media Asia Film, Universe Films, Filmko Films, Emperor Motion Pictures and Mei Ah Entertainment have announced that none of their films will be entered for this year’s Golden Horse Awards and none of their stars will take part in the ceremony.
Among the films affected are four high-profile crime dramas, including The White Storm 2 – Drug Lords (starring Andy Lau Tak-wah and Louis Koo Tin-lok), Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch (starring Tony Leung Ka-fai and Simon Yam Tat-wah).
Tenky Tin Kai-man, chairman of the executive committee of the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers, said he was confused about the motive behind the MPIA email because the application deadline for the ceremony had already passed, while the shortlist had not been announced yet.
“It implies unnecessary links,” he said. “To apply or not, it’s everyone’s autonomy.”
He questioned if medium and small companies that the association was reminding had a stake in airing movies in mainland China.
But Tin rejected claims the email was an act of white terror, only saying the reminder was illogical and not issued at the right timing.
Founded in 1962, Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards are the most prestigious in the Chinese-language film industry, with entries coming primarily from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
John Chong Ching, veteran film producer of Media Asia Group, said co-productions between mainland and Hong Kong filmmakers would not be part of the film festival in general this year as there might be disagreements between partners.
“I don’t think it’s regrettable [that local companies cannot join]. We have to respect stakeholders’ views,” he said.
But acclaimed director Alfred Cheung Kin-ting said it was a pity that major companies would not take part in the event.
“From a director’s perspective, the more the merrier in terms of markets. The production will be better when the creative space is bigger,” he said.
Still, Cheung said it was understandable that MPIA had to send a reminder because the mainland market was so vast.
“That letter would not cause any pressure because film producers can grasp how things are developing on the mainland better than MPIA,” he said.
“Maybe next year it will be relaxed. The vitality of the product is more important than film festivals.”
This article Hong Kong Motion Picture Industry Association draws fire for cautionary note to members about joining Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards amid Beijing boycott first appeared on South China Morning Post