HK Entertainment News Roundup
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
 
Fifteen Minutes with Leon Lai Ming:
An interview with a Heavenly Ambassador





Can you compare him to a summer's day? No, he is more lovely and more temperate. He is one of the Heavenly Kings. He is Leon Lai: The Honorary Ambassador for the 28th Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF). Hong Kong's premier annual movie event is taking place from April 6th to 21st and will showcase nearly 300 movies from more than 40 countries. Mr. Leon Lai Ming -- known to people throughout the region simply as Leon -- is the figurehead of this event. His is the face that will promote Hong Kong movies to the rest of the world and the film festival to the local Hong Kong audience.

At the penthouse of the Miramar Hotel in Tsimshatsui, Barry Manilow's classic tune, "Copacabana" is being piped in via discreet speakers; Lai has just walked off the stage having had countless photographs taken during the press conference for the HKIFF. Despite having just faced a wall of Hong Kong media, some of whom are still shouting "Leon", Lai is smiling. He has been in a gracious mood throughout the press conference -- even answering insipid questions about Shu Qi's alleged inability to shake off her character from The Eye 2.

The general press interviews have been brief while the TV interviews are held with Lai in dark glasses. For this interview, the glasses come off. The unbroken soft brown eye contact throughout the fifteen minute conversation leads one to believe that Lai is either a mean poker player or seriously passionate about his role as ambassador. In an intimate setting away from the main press conference area, a half dozen curious press and PR personnel look on as Peter Tsi Ka-Kei, director of the HKIFF, translates Lai's views on the cultural significance of the film festival. "Unless you're a person who doesn't like choices," says Lai, "the film festival is a rare occasion ... it's an exhilarating experience."

"Countries around this region have already been dominated by films from Hollywood and, other than that, maybe films from Europe. So, if we don't get together and pool our resources and create more synergies from cinemas from different film industries, from different places, it's not going to work."

The Barbarian Invasions, the French-Canadian film recently awarded Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards is one movie Lai expresses particular interest in. Alluding to the way the film questions American 'culture' and how the world has embraced it, Lai says: "There are political issues in the film but it's really intriguing and very interesting."

Leon Lai. Heavenly King. Heavenly Ambassador.

Questioned about his favourite movies as a child, his eyes light up. Without need of Tsi's translation, Lai says directly, "Child is Star Wars. Star Wars and Alien."

Stressing the value and importance of the variety of offerings screening at the international film festival, Lai points out that no matter how accomplished or polished Hollywood blockbusters get, they ultimately cannot connect with local audiences at a deeper level. "It always happens in Asia when a certain national cinema is too dominating then sometimes the audience will feel that it's quite condescending or somehow they will have a distance to that particular country or cinema," he says.

Hollywood is not forgotten however. Questioned about his favourite movies as a child, his eyes light up. Without need of Tsi's translation, Lai says directly, "Child is Star Wars. Star Wars and Alien."

His favourite non-Hollywood movies as he's matured are Leon: The Professional and Le Grand Bleu (The Big Blue). Clearly, Lai is the perfect ambassador for the HKIFF. Personifying cultural diversity itself, Lai is a Heavenly King of Asian entertainment and a Luc Besson fan.

When asked which movie he had seen last, a long time was spent deciding upon what to say. The pause allowed one to ponder if it would be a foreign film, an art house film or perhaps a film from Asia? The toss up is between Golden Chicken 2 and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, both films from 2003. Lai is so busy producing movies and music, the time to indulge in other's productions is a rare luxury.

Lai certainly is a busy man. He has received countless awards for music, the Golden Horse award for Best Leading Actor (Three: Going Home) in 2002, the Medal of Honour for his charity work in 2003 and is the Ambassador for the HKIFF in 2004. His work ethic will doubtless result in further accolades in the years to come but it is not the acclaim that drives him.

Future plans, Lai says, are to, "make films, do more records. Whether you're doing a film or you're making a music album there's still some pressure from the market. It's not a problem for me because I really commit to what I do and, at the end of the day, good work will come out of it."

Again, Lai reiterated, "I don't really take a lot of consideration with regards to the awards."

These contemplative musings continue as he is asked whether a successful film festival this year can show Hong Kong's resilience following a brutal 2003. "Whether there's a 'bounce back' or not, the show has to go on. It's the dream of all the film makers -- we should just do our best and see what happens," he says.

The two opening films of this year's festival, Baober in Love and Jade Goddess of Mercy, are from Mainland China. This is indicative of an increasing number of Mainland Chinese films coming into the Hong Kong market. Lai welcomed this development. He says, "there are a lot of good topics being portrayed in films from China. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a very good system or mechanism from the film industry in China but it's improving."

Lai speculated that there would be a positive change in 2005 and clarified his position on Mainland Chinese films entering Hong Kong. "There shouldn't be any competing scenario here because, first of all, we're one country and I believe the exchange and merging of films and film industries between the two places will actually come up with some really exciting and positive projects."

As Honorary Ambassador, Lai continues to enthuse about all cinema with thoughtful and thorough responses. He does not see the emerging Bangkok Film Festival as a competitor to the HKIFF. Rather, he sees it as a sister event. "The best thing to do is to actually try not to fight against each other," Lai says. "Instead, we should work towards the same goal which is to have a more vibrant Asian film industry as a whole."

For Lai, the world may be in chaos but, "with a lot of things happening around us in society and the world, I think it's probably going to be better for the film festival. When people face negative news or chaotic happenings, it's always nice to go into a cinema and watch movies."

In the blink of an eye, fifteen minutes with Leon Lai Ming has passed. On screen, on stage and in his albums, Lai's personna is filtered through the perspective of a director, a choreographer or a songwriter. In person, Lai's nature comes through unencumbered. He is honest, sincere and mature yet he has not lost the exuberance of youth. If the festival is half as captivating as its Honorary ambassador, it will be an exhilarating experience.

By Alison Dyer
@Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review

http://www.hkentreview.com/



 
[the sun news]

Sam Hui, the Godfather of Canto-pop has come out of his retirement. It was rumored that he will be holding a series of concerts in June. He will be releasing an album and making movies in the months to come.


Sam Hui and Denise Ho(in the Goddess of Mercy look)


Ella Goon Yen Na

Sam Hui also made known his intentions to help kick- start Ella Goon Yen Na's career and help Denise Ho Wan Si's career to reach greater heights. It was understood that the ladies would be involved in all of the up-coming projects that Sam Hui has in mind.



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