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Interview with Joe Ma & Miriam Yeung
Interview Page 1
Info
Author(s) : Thomas Podvin
Date : 1/4/2002
Type(s) : Interview
 
 Intext Links  
People :
Soi Cheang Pou Soi
Sammi Cheng Sau Man
Stephen Chow Sing Chi
Chu Yuan
Joe Ma Wai Ho
Johnnie To Kei Fung
Miriam Yeung Chin Wah
Wilson Yip Wai Shun
Movies :
Bullets Over Summer
Dummy Mommy, Without A Baby
Funeral March
Horror Hotline... Big Head Monster
Love Undercover
Shaolin Soccer
Young, Pregnant And Unmarried
 
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 Notes  
Special Thanks to Joe Ma, Miriam Yeung for their kindness and patience.
We are grateful to Tim Youngs and Sabrina Baracetti for the organisation and to have allowed Joe Ma and Miriam Yeung to meet with their fans in the best conditions.
Thanks also to the main participants Tim Youngs from Another Hong-Kong Movie Page, Shelly Kraicer from A Chinese Cinema Page & Ryan Law from The Hong-Kong Movie Database and to everyone who joined in the meeting and who participated.
Special thanks as well to chief programmer Stephen Cremin, and the Far East Festival team for their hospitality, help and organisation.
Text & press meeting transcript by Thomas, April 2002. Original photos are © by HK Cinemagic.



This is a transcript of the press meeting with the Hong-Kong delegation organised by Sabrina Baracetti & the FEF team and hosted by Tim Youngs at the fourth edition of the Far East Film Festival of Udine in April 2002. The meeting was attended by directors Joe Ma, Thomas Chow & Soi Cheang, actress-singer Miriam Yeung, HK film programmer Tim Youngs, FEF president Sabrina Baracetti, the festival interpreter, plus all the press media, HK movie fans and local moviegoers.

interview

Some of the questions below are from journalists or fans present in the audience. We are grateful to them for their participation. We are happy to share, with their fans, words and thoughts from the HK personalities from this question-answer session.
Joe Ma, there are four films in connection with you presented here at the Far East Film Festival (Funeral March, Horror Hot Line… Big Head Monster, Dummy Mommy Without A Baby and Love Undercover ). You have a reputation of making youth-orientated and popular cinema. How do you keep track of trends in cinema and youth culture in HK for both directing and producing?
Joe Ma : Did I do that? I love to have conversations with people from different backgrounds. Some of them are young teenagers but most of them are old people. However, whenever I talk to them… actually I listen to them more than I talk to them. So that adds many details which may help me to correct my scripts.
 
After watching Dummy Mommy Without A Baby and Love Undercover, it seems that the pairs between director-producer Joe Ma and actress Miriam Yeung and director-producer Johnnie To and actress Sammi Cheng are quite close. Is it a model for you, do you try to do something similar? Or is there not any connection and you have tried to differentiate?

Joe Ma : We cannot plan that. We can't say "OK somebody did that, we copy the team and the formula". Personally I love to direct comedies with major female parts. I think Johnnie To loves to direct many different sorts of movies including urban comedies with major female parts. But at least there is a difference between Johnnie and me… it's her part [pointing to Miriam].

Miriam Yeung : According to the marketing research in HK nowadays comedies is the most popular genre. That's why so many comedies come out in HK. I think that may be this is due to the atmosphere in HK. So we don't really want to copy somebody here and there. I think that the most important point is to make people happy.

 
Dummy Mommy Without A Baby bears the same Chinese title as the famous comedy of the sixties: Young, Pregnant And Unmarried. Is your movie a deliberate remake or is it just a coincidence?

Miriam Yeung : I think it's accidental. I haven't seen the movie. I wasn't even born yet when the movie came out! Maybe it's accidental that it bears the same title.

Joe Ma : I have seen that movie [burst of laughter] when I was that big. The story is very different. The one from the sixties is about family, it's a family comedy about fathers and daughters. Dummy Mommy… is about a boss, a company and its employees. It's quite different. The director of the original movie [Chu Yuan] was really nice. He played a little part in Dummy Mommy… He is the boss in the small restaurant.

 
: LK Fung is a recurrent character in Dummy Mommy Without A Baby and Love Undercover. Could you tell us about what this character has come to represent?
Miriam Yeung : She's a happy girl. The thing is her mind is quite straightforward and also she wants to make people happy, which will make her happiness. So I think she's a cheerful happy girl inside the story and it's a kind of refreshing character in HK.
 
: Did you have any input in the script when the character was given to you? Did you suggest any changes?
Miriam Yeung : Actually no! [laughter] Because I think that directors have their own decisions and ideas inside the story. And they also know everything about the characters. I mean this is a chance for me to learn more about acting. So sometimes I have a little voice inside me saying, "just follow the director's ideas"!
 
: HK Films are different from Hollywood, European and even mainland ones. They offer something else. Are there some special sets of qualities in these films that are unique to HK features?

Joe Ma : To me it's an embarrassing question. I think that the HK movies have some elements that determine its peculiar energy. However, I believe that Korean movies are now more energetic. What can we do? [laughter] We should try to improve.

Miriam Yeung : I don't know how to answer this question. It's very complicated… After working in the industry, I found that making movies in HK had a lot of restrictions. There are problems with talents and resources for people. The market is shrinking. However, I'd like to let you know that all the HK filmmakers are very sincere no matter under what circumstances. What we are trying to do is to use our films to reflect sincere pictures of HK, the HK life and the HK culture. We want to show what we are today and this is the message we try to convey through our films.

Joe Ma : There are a lot of things we should do for the HK movie industry, in many ways, in the distribution field for instance. On top of that, there is a lack of talents, actors, actresses, scriptwriters and directors. Because while we where in the Golden Age [in the eighties], producers and businessmen could earn money easily. So they though they'd got money forever. They didn't spend a little time, resources or money to educate and to train new talents. So now what we can do throughout our projects is to try to give more opportunities to newcomers, to let them experience and improve themselves. That what we can do.
I've worked with Soi Cheang [director of Horror Hot Line… Big Head Monster & Diamond Hill] and Wilson Yip [director ofBullets Over Summer& Skyline Cruisers]. The most important part is to have more talents, more people well educated directors and stars just as in Korea. So the industry could expend again.
In the end of the day we lack financiers and investors. They are actually not very open-minded and should be a little more farsighted and not only see the immediate results on a short-term basis. If they foresee a little bit more and if they can have a vision, then we can actually have more opportunities to make more movies. I think that is may be the type of talent missing in HK.

Miriam Yeung : By then, I would have more opportunities to play different types of roles! [laughter]
 
At the moment the situation of the HK film industry isn't very promising. But how can you explain the huge success of Shaolin Soccer by Stephen Chow Sing Chi?
Joe Ma : In HK the actual situation is different from 10 years ago. Then, people were used to go to theatres three times a week. Now they maybe go two times a year! So suddenly, everybody went to see Shaolin Soccer, and it broke the record. In addition to that, Stephen Chow is considered as the 'god of actors' in HK. Everybody loves him. When we found that he's spent two to three years to finish the project as a director and an actor we were really happy of the result. Lots of people loved this movie that is quite amazing and magical in our experience.

Miriam Yeung : Sometimes the box office revenue isn't a measurement of whether the film is successful or not. Other elements must be taken into account to measure the success correctly. In a way I feel like the movies I made with Joe Ma were pretty successful too because people gave them good reviews. They were not very high box office records though.
 
What did you expect to find here in the Udine Festival? And what are your feelings now meeting up with your fans from HK and from the rest of the world?
Joe Ma : It's my second year to be here. Basically I find it quite relax. It's not a competition film festival. It's just to exchange some ideas, to see other country movies as an experience. I love to see people here, it can maybe give some inputs in my life.

Miriam Yeung : This is my first time to be here. I found that everybody here, the audience and the press media are so sensible and nice to HK people. Before I got here I just knew that people here were quite interested by HK movies. I didn't know why. But today I know why. It's an exchange of cultures from different countries and it's great!
 
Miriam, could you compare the different sets of challenges, difficulties and pleasures you have in your singing career and your acting career?
Miriam : Sure, it's different. It's different kind of pressures. I've been singing for nearly seven years and I have learnt how to get rid of that kind of pressure. But as an actress, I think that I am still a newcomer. And, I think that this [the festival] is the best way to relieve my pressure!
 
: What are your next projects?

Joe Ma : I am planning to make a comedy!

Miriam Yeung : I hope Joe Ma would come to me to make me the heroine of this comedy!

 
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