Film awards nothing to cheer about

Editorial | 11 Apr 2017

As commerce secretary Gregory So Kam-leung congratulated movies Mad World and Weeds on Fire for doing well at the Hong Kong Film Awards, something was glaringly absent in his remarks.

Where was Trivisa - the night's biggest winner?

The minister may be forgiven for being so economical with his words, since Mad World and Weeds on Fire were supported by the government's Film Development Fund, whereas Trivisa, which won five awards - including for best film, best director and best actor - wasn't.

I hope it's as simple and had nothing to do with the mainland censorship that, for some mysterious reason, has sought to ban the top award winner. Have the mainland censors become excessively intolerant with its dislikes?

Nonetheless, So could have been more generous with his praise if a former official such as John Tsang Chun- wah could also be so free to comment on an SAR production that won so much acclaim.

The treatment accorded to Trivisa was incomprehensible. It's public knowledge the mainland has always been ready to bar productions that it dislikes. But most victims were considered to be politically or ideologically incorrect.

Last year, the best film winner - Ten Years - was deleted from all mainland media after its portrayal of how life in Hong Kong would become in a decade's time irritated censors in the north.

Was Trivisa so politically incorrect or ideologically sensitive to warrant similar treatment?

The project had started a few years ago, and the script rewritten several times with the clear intention of marketing it in the mainland. Anything sensitive would have been removed in the early stages.

The movie is a fictionalized depiction of three notorious gangsters - "Teeth Dog" Yip Kai-foon, Kwai Ping- hung, and "Big Spender" Cheung Tsz- keung - who terrorized Hong Kong prior to 1997.

It's a common subject for a commercial production, so why the ban?

If there must be a reason, it may well be that one of the directors had also directed one of the episodes featured in Ten Years that angered Beijing. That's probable, but it would be a reason too stretched to justify the verdict, unless the intention was to issue a warning to the industry.

If this was the case, it's pitiful. The mainland should explain the decision.

If it wasn't about the director, then could it be due to scenes involving corrupt cadres shown in the film? That would be hard to comprehend since corruption is rampant in the mainland, and thousands of corrupt "tigers" and "flies" alike have been prosecuted and jailed since President Xi Jinping took office.

On the contrary, it may be argued that Trivisa conforms to the official tone that bad guys are always doomed.

Perhaps So should take up the issue with his mainland counterparts to find out why the oddities. He should appreciate that it will bode badly for movie development, which requires creative freedom to thrive - in addition to support from the Film Development Fund.

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