Category Archives: 2012 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival

[CFF] Girl$ 囡囡 (2010) – Hong Kong

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@ 2012 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival

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“Together we did a test, but with immerse consequences…”

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In many ways this is a controversial film for mainstream Hong Kong cinema, not only does it deals with the 21st century sex industry, but it shows the actual sexual act in some form of details. Sometimes in the mist of life, people tend to forget about relationships and in the process; everyone is so busy that there is no time to develop feelings beyond a day. It is the harsh reality of an extremely commercial and business world, where the dogs eat dogs. Director Kenneth Bi succeeds in delivering an issue not dealt with by the usual Hong Kong fair, but falls short of its lofty ambitions, by looking at the surface of the online industry sex industry and never dealing with the more complicate themes.

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There is no question that Michelle Wai is the pick of the actresses on display. Her ability to be vulnerable is amazing, but it is her natural screen persona that enables her to deliver a character and something the audience can somewhat identify with. In addition, the film possesses an extremely daring display by Taiwanese actress (played by Una Lin) not only bares for all to see, but created life within her character and the reasons behind her becoming. However the same cannot be said for Bonnie Xian and high schooler (Venus Wong) as both pale away in comparison.

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All in all, Girl$ is a fun film to watch and most certainly a film filled with potential, but by the hour mark, all the build-up went into the waste bin. In a way this is disappointing as director Kenneth Bi is a talented director who is capable in delivering the tough issues. Still, there is a lot to like about this film and not unlike fast food, it is fast, cheap, entertaining, and sexy and it is very much Hong Kong flavour. Girl$ will probably never win any awards, but in depicting the vibrant sex industry of Hong Kong, it is at the very least starting a trend. Next we will probably see Wong Jing following suit. A decent film that falls short of its lofty ambition…

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Neo rates it 6.75/10

[CFF] Q&A session with Pick the Youth director Tapu Chen and actress Gao Man-hua

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After the Pick the Youth screening, director Tapu Chen (陳大璞) and actress Gao Man-hua (高曼華) expressed some light into the film, the personal nature and the acting experience.

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Q: Is this a personal film?
Tapu Chen (陳大璞): When I was born, my father is already 47 years old and therefore my relationship with him is more like a grandfather and grandson. The reason for me to shoot this film, is because I got a baby in 2004 and it make me want to know more about my relationship with my own father.

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Q: If you are facing with this kind question, as a father, will you let you son make the decision?
Tapu Chen (陳大璞): In eastern culture, especially for father and son, you might seem very open, but in reality, you have already put pressure on your son to make a decision that you want. So in essence, your son is not really making his own decision.

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Q: After your son grow up (who is now 7 years old) are you going to watch the film with your son?
Tapu Chen (陳大璞): My son watch this film with my two times. The first time he said “wow it is a great movie”, but the second time, I was busy with my work, so he watched it by himself and he ask me: “After you shot this film, do you still got money?” I told him that not really, I spend all my money on this film. So my son told to if I have any money, can you spend the money shooting Star Wars.

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Q: Why do you use music as the process in the whole film?
Tapu Chen (陳大璞): As you know classical music and rock music is quite different. By using music throughout the whole film will allow the audience to feel the emotions of the director. If we can’t touch the audience with the inexperienced actors, we can use music to touch the audience.

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Q: In the movie – you are a music player, in real life do you play music?
Gao Man-hua (高曼華): Actually I have a music group in real life, but I have never shot a movie before, so I cannot really get into character very well as it is very different to myself. Therefore the director really need to help me into the role.

After the interview, I went up and had a short chat with 高曼華, she was very welcoming and sweet. I told her that I gave the movie a 8.5/10 and she was very appreciative. She also told me that she was 20 at the time of shooting and had to act several years under her age. It was difficult to convince, therefore, she had to cut her hair shorter to look younger. Looking at the film and now, she is definitely much pretty in person. Before she left, I gave her my card and she promised she will visit it and send her regards.

All in all, a wonderful night.

Note: director Tapu Chen won the Special Jury Prize at the Festival.

[CFF] Pick the Youth 皮克青春 (2011) – Taiwan

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@ 2012 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival

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“I finally realised that Grandpa wasn’t the cage, he is just another bird in the cage, but without the feathers…”

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Although this is a little known Taiwanese film that didn’t do well at the box office, Pick the Youth is a thoroughly enjoyable film that takes the audience back to dream, childhood and music. I remember back when I was in high school, my parents didn’t embrace the idea that I wanted to be a film critic and thought I was definitely wasting my time away by watching and writing about films. It was tough as 17 years old trying to balance HSC and movies, but somehow I managed to come through. In fact back in 2004, I wrote a review for every single Hong Kong productions that year. Thinking back, I do not for one single moment regret my Hong Kong cinema experience and it was that year that defined my passion for films well as knowing more about my roots. Flicking back to this film, it succeeds because it is a personal film that the audience can revoke and relate to. It is a shame that such a film is not embraced by the Taiwanese general audience, but my gain is their loss.

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The film does not rely on strong individual effort, but rather it is a team performance. Every actor from young to old together they managed to reach the final outcome. In particular I thought the father (played by Jonathan Chang – 張克帆) does extremely well in a role similar to the director’s own personal story. (Read Q&A session with the film director) Likewise Gao Man-hua (高曼華) displays plenty of potential and in a way outshine the rest of the youngsters. Despite being her debut performance, there is an air of natural presence that made her a younger version of the mother (played by Francesca Gao – 高慧君).

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All in all, Pick the Youth is a highly underrated film from a director who wanted to share an extremely personal story about father and son and the notion of what is best for them. It is a complicated dilemma that will face most parents in the past, present and future. What is so great about this film is that it doesn’t try to manufacture emotions and uses music as a medium to explain and show one’s passion. Rebellious youth will forever be a topic of interest in coming of age youth cinema, but director Tapu Chen (陳大璞) is able to show a different side. Pick the Youth could well have been just another well-meaning art house flick, but it is more than that, because once you are hooked, you are unlikely to leave your seat. What gave the film extra marks is its ability to make the audience think and somehow revoke their own pursued passion. It is disappointing to say that the film fails to finish off with a bang and fully churn the audience to tears. However, for what it is worth, Pick the Youth is a highly commendable effort and enjoyable film to watch…

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Neo rates it 8.5/10

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Special Note: Special Congrations to director Tapu Chen (陳大璞) for winning the Special Jury Award @ the 2012 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival!

[CFF] Jump! Ashin 翻滚吧!阿信 (2011) – Taiwan

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@ The 2012 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival

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“you are not only fighting for yourself, but for all those who once had a dream…”

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“if you have the chance to live a dream, go for it bravely!”

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Jump! Ashin is an interesting, yet unbelievable film that is apparently based on a true story. Still there is a lot to like about this film. Firstly, the two lead actors are extremely likable in the form of the bulked up Eddie Peng and the scene stealing entertaining display from rising star Ko Yue-Lun. Secondly, from start to finish, the film is extremely well-meaning and the good news is that it entertains as well. Finally, the director being the brother to the real-life Ashin, adds an extremely personal touch to the proceedings and the result is a heartfelt finale that wins over the audience’s hearts.

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Eddie Peng is easily a likable character and as a title character Ashin, Peng puts in a career best display and carries the film with a strong touch. The fact that the finale can be so touching just goes to show the effort both Peng and the director puts into the character development to a level the audience can relate and feel. Likewise Ko Yue-Lun simply steals the show as Ashin’s sidekick. His conflicted emotions in display as well as being a drug addict further enhance his ability as an actor in probably the most difficult role in the film. Although, Zaizai Lin’s screen time is kept to a minimal, but Lin was simply iresistably sweet and the manner she manages to extend from her page thin role, just goes to show the potential of her acting ability. Another actress to stay in touch with and certainly can do so much more in a meatier role.

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All in all, Jump! Ashin does feels like a payback to Hong Kong late 80s cinema. From the Jackie Chan’s style fight scenes to the Dave Wong’s classic songs about after love and a clear cardboard cut of scene from As Tears Goes By, Jump! Ashin reminds us of the glory days of HK cinema. With films like “You are an Apple of My Eye” and now this, Taiwanese cinema is making a strong statement. Despite the numerous exaggerated subplots and events, the film ultimately finishes extremely strongly and ends on a positive note. If you are able to go out of this film unaffected, then you are either emotion-less or you have slept for the whole duration. I have always got soft spots from films that can inspire, emote and embrace the audience along the ride. Jump! Ashin succeeds by going back to the basics and as cliché as the story may seem, there is no doubting that this is a good film to boot…

Neo rates it 8/10.

2012 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival – Sydney – Opening Ceremony

Had a good chat with Teddy Robin 泰迪羅賓 and Siu Yam-yam 邵音音. Looking forward seeing/rewatching their films at the festival.

When I spoke with Teddy, he always answer with a smile. He told me that he is looking for investors to fund for his new untitled film and will be attending one of the screenings at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

While I had a longer chat with Siu Yam-yam, who told me not to go back and watch Jump! Ashin to my surprise. This is how she describe the film: “the guy is a pk, then he become a pk, but the pk get a lot of support and end up still a pk.” Interesting conversation and she told me she has two films in contention at the Hong Kong Film Festival in March/April. In the process I also met her daughter, Jean Kho who works for film production company – Film Mall Limited. Feel free to have a look: http://www.film-mail.com

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Congrats to Teddy for winning the Best Actor Award!

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See you all at the festival!

Cheers
Neo