His 2009 revenge drama “At The End of Daybreak” revived the career of the veteran actress Kara Hui, who was an action star of the Shaw Brothers era. “Daybreak” earned her seven best actress awards. She has since gone on to star in “Wu Xia,” “Rigor Mortis,” and “The Midnight After.”
Those numbers were a record opening for an animated film in China and the fifth-biggest opening weekend of any film in China this year. It was also the biggest animated opening in China for IMAX. The film earned $4 million of its weekend total from 417 IMAX screens in China.
The score was achieved from 97,000 screenings Friday and 115,000 on each of Saturday and Sunday.
The weekend total is also bigger than the lifetime score achieved by “Despicable Me 2,” which was the first film in the franchise to be released in China.
Second place belonged to the strongest of a large bunch of Chinese-made new releases. Horror franchise movie “The House That Never Dies II” scored $20.8 million in four days, having
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, best known as the body behind the Academy Awards, has invited 774 new members to join its ranks — topping last year’s record-setting 683 invitations. This new high reflects the Academy’s commitment to diversifying its organization as well as the films it honors every year at the Oscars.
The new roster continued last year’s large inclusion of international members. The new members represent 57 different countries, comparable to 2016’s 59 nations. As the La Times observes, the new class shows that the Academy “is figuring out what it means to have standards in the first place: namely, by fostering a membership that can genuinely be described as world class.”
While the Academy’s attempt to think globally is admirable, this year’s raw numbers are something of a let down after the 2016 class. Women represent 39 percent of the new class, as compared to last year’s 46 percent. Thirty percent of the new members this year are people of color, while 2016’s class was 41 percent non-white.
In addition, there hasn’t been a significant change in the macro sense. The number of all female Academy members has shifted from 25 percent in 2015 — before the greater push for gender equality and diversity — to 28 percent this year. Similarly, non-white members have only slightly increased from 2015’s eight percent to 2017’s 11 percent. It’s progress, but there’s obviously still a long way to go.
In the directing branch, 18 of the 64 new members are women — about 28 percent. That’s makes for total of 109 female filmmakers in the Academy’s directing branch, so women represent approximately 19 percent of its directors overall. Among the new class are Sharon Maguire (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”), Jocelyn Moorhouse (“The Dressmaker”), Emmanuelle Bercot (“Standing Tall”), Patricia Cardoso (“Real Women Have Curves”), Jessica Hausner (“Amour Fou”), Joanna Hogg (“Archipelago”), Ann Hui (“A Simple Life”), and Cate Shortland (“Berlin Syndrome”).
Kristen Stewart (“Personal Shopper”), Elle Fanning (“The Beguiled”), Leslie Jones (“Ghostbusters”), Janelle Monaé (“Hidden Figures”), Betty White (“The Proposal”), Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”), and Sanaa Lathan (“Love & Basketball”) are among the new U.S. members of the Academy’s acting branch. International performers like Gal Gadot (“Wonder Woman”), Fan Bingbing (“I Am Not Madame Bovary”), Golshifteh Farahani (“Paterson”), Charlotte Gainsbourg (“Melancholia”), Rinko Kikuchi (“Babel”), and Paz Vega (“Sex and Lucía”) are also on the 2017 roster.
While it looks like the Academy is sincere in its attempt to increase the number of non old, white men, it still has a lot of work to do.
Go to The Hollywood Reporter to check out the full list of new Academy members.
The Academy Continues to Diversify with 774 New Members was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
But others said that the Academy’s decision to include more Chinese and Asian faces was an effort to boost diversity rather than a bow by Hollywood to China, and that the new Chinese additions would have a negligible impact on Chinese films’ Oscar prospects.
Fourteen industry heavyweights from mainland China and Hong Kong are among the 774 new invited members. The news made headlines throughout Greater China.
“China raves over record number of Chinese filmmakers to join the Academy,” one headline declared.
The 10 invitees from Hong Kong are actresses Maggie Cheung (“In the Mood for Love”) and Carina Lau (“Days of Being Wild”); actors Tony Leung (“In the Mood for Love”) and Donnie Yen (“Ip Man
But Hui has always kept simplistic political narratives...
Although it’s competently narrated and boasts fine acting from the leads (who nonetheless look nothing like locals), it’s hard to see how this serious period drama could connect with the popular tastes of either Hong Kong or mainland audiences. This is Hui’s third film set during the Sino-Japanese War, the others being “Love in a Fallen City” (1984) and “The Golden Era” (2014). All three movies portray independent-minded heroines fighting to assert themselves in such a tumultuous enivornment, but whereas the two earlier films were dominated by romantic storylines, here, the female protagonist operates within a community of kindred spirits, making personal fulfillment a secondary concern.
In 1941, after the Japanese Imperial Army occupied Hong Kong, the Ccp draws up a plan to ferry nearly a hundred Leftist intellectuals, artists and film veterans to safety, the most famous of whom is writer Mao Tun (Guo Tao), who is lodging at the Wanchai home of Mrs. Fong (Deanie Ip) and her teacher daughter Lan (Zhou Xun). When something goes wrong on the day of Mao’s departure, Lan, who’s a big fan of his writing, impulsively assists local guerillas on the rescue mission. Impressed by Lan’s composure, their captain Blackie (Eddie Peng) recruits her to join the urban unit to liaise with members hiding in outlying fishing communities and “walled villages” inhabited by indigenous Hakka.
Whether a directorial decision or one born out of budget constraints, instead of gearing up as a full-blown war epic or taut spy thriller, the narrative strikes a more relaxed pace that de-glamorizes the underground resistance. Lan and her comrades’ role is basically that of a courier delivery service. Blackie, who is based on a legendary real-life sharpshooter, dispatches Japanese soldiers and Chinese traitors with no-nonsense efficiency that’s the antithesis of Hong Kong-style bullet ballet. Even Lan’s fiancé Gam-wing (Wallace Huo), a double agent working in the Japanese army’s headquarters, is mostly seen leisurely discussing Song dynasty poetry with Japanese colonel Yamaguchi (Masatoshi Nagase).
The most absorbing drama stems from the affectionate relationship Lan has with her mother, who doesn’t take long to figure out what her daughter’s up to. Though she’s fully aware of the danger involved, Mrs Fong doesn’t oppose her, but instead tries to ease her load in ways that have dire consequences.
In a checkered career spanning over four decades, Hui’s strongest suit has been neorealist works, such as “A Simple Life” and “The Way We Are,” that depict Hong Kong’s grassroots with compassion and respect. There’s thematic continuity and perhaps even a contemporary subtext here in her depiction of ordinary citizens’ fortitude under gravely deteriorating living conditions and internal strife, as seen in a risibly thrifty wedding scene. By highlighting the value of artists and intellectuals, and the importance of protecting them, she imbues the authentic historical episode with timely universal relevance.
Zhou has played similar roles in WWII spy-thrillers “The Message” and “The Silent War,” but this is her most natural performance. She holds attention in every shot, conveying her conviction without resorting to demonstrative emotional outbursts or flag-waving dialogue. A pivotal moment in which she weighs filial love against the greater good is so measured and controlled its wrenching impact doesn’t fully register several scenes later.
Ip is simply terrific as the down-to-earth single-mother with a heart of gold, a role that recalls but doesn’t rehash her scintillating turn as an altruistic nanny in “A Simple Life,” which won her best actress honors at the Venice Film Festival. With her colloquial dialogue and unique mannerisms, she brings much-needed humor to serious scenarios, imbuing small talk with layers of nuance.
The bulk of the story, which spans the entire occupation, is interspersed with present-day interviews conducted by Hui herself of Ben (Tony Leung Ka-fai), an elderly man who served as a messenger for the guerillas. Shot in black-and-white for documentary effect, the alternating timelines remind one that life goes on. As Ben said, he became a taxi driver after the war, because “you gotta eat.”
The film ends with a relatively downbeat feeling, eschewing the jubilation of victory while letting the protagonists fade out, their fates unknown. This in turn lends a sense of ambivalence to the passage Lan reads aloud from Mao Tun’s inspirational essay “Evening,” written in 1927 after the Ccp experienced a setback at the start of the civil war.
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There were the usual speeches, parades of past award winners, and hordes of local media. But the star wattage on the red carpet (which was strewn with gold cups and an oversized Cadillac) was a couple of notches lower than in previous years. And on the industry side, there is similarly little expectation of a deals-announcement frenzy.
Last year the corridors and conference rooms of the festival-owned Crowne Plaza throbbed with slate announcements of jaw-dropping proportions. Numerous new connections were being made between Chinese companies and overseas filmmakers, many from Hollywood.
But the intervening year has been an instructive one. In hindsight, the 2016 Shanghai festival looks like the last hurrah of an old era when everything and anything seemed possible.
Soon after the festival,
Danish director Bille August’s The Chinese Widow will open this year’s Shanghai International Film Festival (Siff, June 17-26), replacing Ann Hui’s Our Time Will Come, which was previously announced as the opening film.
However, Our Time Will Come will still play in the Golden Goblet competition at Siff. No reason was given for the change by either the festival or the film’s producer Bona Film Group.
Both films are set in China during the Second World War. Starring Emile Hirsch and Yu Nan, The Chinese Widow tells the story of an American pilot who is shot down and saved by Chinese villagers. It remains unclear if the film has been made under the recently signed Danish-Chinese co-production treaty. August recently served as jury president at the Beijing International Film Festival.
Our Time Will Come, which stars Zhou Xun and Eddie Peng, revolves
No explanation for the change was offered by the festival, or Bona Film Group, producer of “Our Time,” or its international sales agent, Hong Kong-based Distribution Workshop. The film is a wartime drama focusing on the a woman school teacher and other youths who led the resistance movement during Japan’s WWII occupation of Hong Kong. It stars Taiwan’s Eddie Peng and Wallace Huo and China’s Zhou Xun as the female lead.
Hui has been reported as conceiving the film as a tribute to the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British colonial rule to China. It will open in China on the anniversary, July 1 and in Hong Kong a few days later.
Ann Hui’s Our Time Will Come will open this year’s Shanghai International Film Festival (Siff, June 17-26), which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017.
The historical drama, starring Eddie Peng and Zhou Xun, will also compete in the festival’s main competition section, the Golden Goblet Awards.
At a Cannes reception yesterday (May 18), Siff also announced seven other competition titles: Yasuo Furuhat’s Reminiscence (Japan), Dave McCary’s Brigsby Bear (Us), Cătălin Saizescu’s Fault Condition (Romania), Maciej Pieprzyca’s I’m A Killer (Poland), Ivan Bolotnikov’s Kharms (Russia), Robert Mullan’s Mad To Be Normal (UK) and Markus Goller’s My Brother Simple (Germany).
As previously announced, Romanian director Christian Mungiu will head the Golden Goblet Awards jury, which also includes Chinese director Cao Baoping, Chinese screenwriter Li Qiang, Us/Macedonian filmmaker Milcho Manchevski, Japanese director
Hong Kong-based Media Asia Films has picked up international rights to The Founding Of An Army, directed by Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs) and starring Liu Ye and Zhu Yawen.
Produced by China Film Group (Cfg), Bona Film Group and other Chinese companies, the historical propaganda film is the third installment in a trilogy that also includes The Founding Of A Republic (2009) and The Founding Of A Party (2011). Scheduled for Chinese release on July 29, it tells the story of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army (Pla).
Like other recent propaganda-driven Chinese films, such as The Taking Of Tiger Mountain and Operation Mekong, the film has been made in a commercial style with a star-studded cast so that it has genuine appeal for audiences. “The film boasts some of the most spectacular war scenes that the director has ever done on
Hong Kong-based Distribution Workshop has picked up international rights to martial arts action title The Hidden Sword, directed by Xu Haofeng.
Starring Zhang Aoyue (The Final Master), Jessie Li (Port Of Call) and Chen Kuan Tai (14 Blades), the film is currently in post-production for tentative release towards the end of the year.
Based on Xu’s own novella, the film is set in the 1930s when a special sword has helped the Chinese army win the war against Japan. The old man who developed the sword tries to go into hiding with his family, when his martial techniques start to attract too much attention, but eventually the outside world starts to intrude.
A leading martial arts fiction writer, Xu has also directed critically-acclaimed films such as The Sword Identity (2011), Judge Archer (2012) and The Final Master (2015) and co-wrote the screenplay for The Grandmaster (2013) with Wong Kar-wai. The Final Master, which
All eyes are on films such as “Mad World,” “Trivisa,” and “Weeds on Fire” with young directing talents. They compete against Stephen Chow’s Hong Kong-mainland blockbuster “The Mermaid” and crime thriller “Cold War II” in the best film category.
They go into the ceremony having already picked up significant kudos. “Mad World” by first time director Wong Chun, recently won the Osaka Asian Film Festival and went on commercial release in Hong Kong last week, to predominantly positive reviews.
“Trivisa” won two prizes at the Golden Horse Awards in October and was a nominee for best film. Its three directors Frank Hui,
With very few Hong Kong or mainland Chinese sellers making the journey to this year’s European Film Market in Berlin, Filmart offers a chance for buyers to catch up with the Chinese-language titles that will be rolled out in the region for the rest of the year.
After serving up the biggest film of the Chinese New Year holiday — Kung Fu Yoga, starring Jackie Chan and directed by Stanley Tong — China’s Sparkle Roll Media has launched a Hong Kong-based sales arm that is selling Ding Sheng’s reboot of the A Better Tomorrow series.
Other high-profile action titles new to market include Distribution Workshop’s Extraordinary Mission, from the creative teams behind the Infernal Affairs and Overheard series, and Huayi Brothers’ crime drama Explosion, starring Duan Yihong.
Distribution Workshop is unveiling a new slate of productions at Filmart, including Yuen Woo-ping’s [pictured] The Thousand Faces Of Dunjia, produced by Tsui Hark and Nansun Shi.
The martial arts action fantasy stars Aarif Lee, hot from recent Chinese New Year hit Kung Fu Yoga, along with Dong Chengpeng (aka Da Peng), Zhou Dongyu and Ni Ni.
Set during the Northern Song Dynasty, the film follows a band of martial arts warriors who secretly protect the human race from evil outer space creatures. Producer Nansun Shi described the film as “a completely fresh approach at telling a story which combines traditional martial arts with science and aliens.”
Currently in post-production for tentative release in October, the film is produced by Le Vision Pictures, Acme Image Film Cultural Co and Film Can Production.
The film heads a busy slate for Distribution Workshop, which
This year’s Asian Film Awards (Afa) will present the Lifetime Achievement Award to iconic Hong Kong director, producer and screenwriter Tsui Hark.
Tsui most recently directed Journey To The West: The Demons Strike Back, produced by fellow Hong Kong filmmaker Stephen Chow, which was one of the top-grossing releases in mainland China over the Chinese New Year holiday period. His other recent China blockbusters include Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon (2013) and The Taking Of Tiger Mountain (2014).
Starting with his 2011 hit Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate, Tsui has made all his films as a director in 3D and has become one of the region’s most effective filmmakers in the use of 3D technology.
Although currently one of China’s most bankable filmmakers, Tsui’s career stretches back some 40 years. In 1984, he founded Film Workshop with Nansun Shi, through which he
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