The recipient of this year’s Osaka Asia Star Award at the Osaka Asian Film Festival, Hong Kong’s Chapman To held little back about his own career and his views on his fellow Hong Kong filmmakers during a talk held during the award ceremony this past weekend.
“I am very happy that I am receiving an award on my first visit to the Osaka Asian Film Festival,” To said during his acceptance speech, “For most Hong Kongers, coming to Osaka means shopping at Shinsaibashi, not receiving an award.”
To was also self-deprecating about his own career achievements: “I’ve acted in over 80 films, produced 8 films and I just started my directorial career. However, I think that I have done more harm than good to the Hong Kong film industry. Even if the fact that this festival thinks I deserve an award is a misunderstanding, I am still very happy about it.”
After the award ceremony, To held a 30-minute talk with the audience, where he spoke at length about how he met frequent collaborator Pang Ho-cheung (the two met while working together at ATV in the 1990s) and balancing his serious and comedic sides with plenty of humor.
However, To got serious when he began speaking about Hong Kong filmmakers who have shifted their careers to Mainland China.
“I have to respect Hong Kong cinema because many investors and other directors no longer respect Hong Kong cinema,” To says with a serious face, “Since many of them went to work in the Mainland China market, they’ve come to neglect the feelings of Hong Kong audiences because there’s so much money in that market. For example, if there’s a film that does really well in Mainland China doesn’t do well in Hong Kong, that director would have no problem with it because he/she made that movie for the Mainland China audience anyway. This hurts the Hong Kong audience a lot. I don’t approve of this kind of thinking, either. The thing is, it was the Hong Kong audience that nurtured them from lowly jobs to directors. But I guess they’ve forgotten about it because too much time has passed by.”
To, however, kept relatively mum about his own experiences as a director. Both of his directorial efforts – Malaysian comedy Let’s Eat! (開飯啦！) and The Empty Hands (空手道) – have played at the festival.
“I was at a film festival in Sydney once, and I went to a party where I met a lot of filmmakers from around the world. They were all talking about the difficulties they encountered in filmmaking. This is why I think it’s not good for a director to complain too much about his or her hardships because that’s not necessarily what audiences need to know. Working is tough for anyone. Everyone encounters difficulties in their jobs. When you’re in a taxi, you don’t want to hear the driver complain about how hard it is to drive in Osaka, right? I wouldn’t ride in that taxi.”
To, who hosted a foodie show on local television last year and often posts about food on his Facebook page, ended the talk by speaking from his love of food: “I feel that there may be many troubles in life, but the greatest satisfaction comes from feeling full. No matter how painful a day can be, to end it or begin it with a full meal is important. Sometimes, solutions to our problems come after we’ve eaten. But when you’re hungry, you only feel one kind of pain: hunger. So if people can live simpler and realize that all we ultimately need is to fill our stomachs, then our other worries will go away.”