Published: 15:17, March 31, 2023 | Updated: 09:34, April 3, 2023
Is Hong Kong’s film industry on the rebound?
By Amy Mullins

Sunny Chan Wing-sun’s melodramatic comedy, Table for Six (2022), is a commercial success. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

At the industry trade event Filmart, which wrapped on March 16, film critic Thomas Shin moderated a panel titled Dialogue with Hong Kong Directors: The Spring of Hong Kong Movies? The concept was an easy one to grasp. Following a record-breaking 12 months, which saw the release of upward of half a dozen local hits, led by Jack Ng’s all-time box-office champ A Guilty Conscience (as of late March, the film has raked in nearly HK$115 million ($14.65 million)), is the moribund Hong Kong film industry on the verge of a rebound?

To some, the answer is a resounding yes, given the success of Conscience, Sunny Chan Wing-sun’s Table for Six (which has grossed HK$79 million) and Ng Yuen-fai’s flashy sci-fi romp Warriors of Future (HK$82 million) — an impression further bolstered by the current Hong Kong International Film Festival opening and closing with local fare. 

“I think what’s great is that Hong Kong people are embracing locally produced movies. They used to avoid telling friends they watched Hong Kong movies, and now you see people taking Instagram photos at shows — it’s encouraging,” says Chan, who also had success with his low-budget Men on the Dragon (2018). The director chalks up the recent turnaround for the local industry partly to a “less is more” trend — as opposed to the heyday of the 1980s and ’90s, when the city was pumping out hundreds of films a year and not everyone was committed to the form or telling stories that resonated with the viewers.

The courtroom drama, A Guilty Conscience (2022), by Jack Ng, has shattered box-office records. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Support from programs like Create Hong Kong’s First Feature Film Initiative (FFFI) also helps, with recent projects including last year’s The Narrow Road (Lam Sum), the recently released Lost Love (Ka Sing-fung), and Anastasia Tsang’s upcoming A Light Never Goes Out. As Ng sees it, the FFFI demand for a completed script, practically optional in the old days, helps nurture better directors.

“I don’t count myself; I’ve been around for a bit — but things like the FFFI do help and provide more opportunities,” says Ng, noting that more industry veterans are sharing their expertise with wannabe filmmakers. “I’m confident there will be loads of new directors emerging soon. And this is a good thing.”

Chan and Ng agree that working with a finished script, paired with a willingness among emerging filmmakers to put more of themselves into the films they make, will provide the best way forward for the industry and help return Hong Kong cinema to the international stage. That kind of status is, however, still a ways down the road.

“This is very much a beginning,” concludes Ng. “We need a little bit more time — say, three to five years — before we can say for certain whether this is an actual spring.”