The movie industry is a challenging one especially in Hong Kong. Well known for the various family and comedy films he directed, Hong Kong’s Clifton Ko Chi-Sum shares with EZ on the challenges he faced in the making of his latest film and on his switch to theatre.
Ko is well known for his comedies ever since his very first feature, a supernatural comedy “The Happy Ghost” grossed over $17 million in 1984. Fast forward, he stopped filmmaking and shifted to theatre production and last year, he released his first feature film in 11 years. He made his silver screen comeback with a family drama, “Wonder Mama”, that focuses on the lives of women and men past their prime.
“I feel that there was never any focus on the lives of the older generation, if you notice, all movies are of the younger generation and for the younger generation,” Ko said of his decision to direct Wonder Mama. The feature film stars Petrina Fung Bo Bo as a middle-aged woman grappling with family and career issues while her parents divorced and her father takes on a younger spouse.
The making of the film was not an easy path as Ko felt that the lead actress role seemed made for Fung and it took a while for him to finally persuade her to take on the role. The film was also not within a popular genre and did not fit current trends for rom-coms, action films or supernatural films. This did not deter Ko from soldiering on to translate the lives of a family drama onto the silver screen.
“This movie is not about profits or making something to suit the market demand but something that I wanted to contribute back to the society, to show the people about the lives of those entering their golden years,” he said. The movie is based partly on a true story with a moral background emphasising on family values.
Ko lamented on the lack of meaningful films with strong values in recent years, particularly those that focuses on family and felt that there is a gap that the Wonder Mama filled perfectly. Wonder Mama was produced with a $8 million budget, out of which, $1.6 million was financed by the government’s Film Development Fund. The film that debut last year was shown at several international film festivals such as the 2014 Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, the 5th Beijing International Film Festival and the 2014 East Winds Film Festival in the UK.
The Wonder Mama is a not a far departure from Ko’s usual style which incorporated comedy with family-themed movies in the 1980s through to 1990s such as My Family (1986), It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad World (1987), All’s Well End’s Well (1992) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1994), all top grossing films during that period of time. Ko also received a Golden Horse Award Best Director nomination from The Mad Phoenix (1997).
In 1995, Ko formed The Spring-Time group and spent most of his time directing stage productions in which he revived I Have a Date With Spring and The Mad Phoenix on stage several times and breaking box office records. “After the 1990s, the Hong Kong movie industry saw a drastic drop due to piracy issues and I decided to make the switch to theatre performances,” he said of his change from the silver screen to the stage. He felt that stage production offers more challenges to his directing skill but he enjoyed honing his stage production skills to perfection with his numerous productions.
“We must remember that on stage, we can’t shout “cut” or edit it later, it is live so everything has to be perfect and this is a challenge that I enjoyed facing,” he said. Currently, Ko believed the theatre industry in Hong Kong is at a very matured stage with more in the middle class appreciating stage shows. “The market in Beijing and Shanghai is also growing and it is a new market that we could target to continue to grow our production,” he said.
Ko was recently in Penang, Malaysia to introduce his latest production, “Wild Wild Rose”, to Penang and Malaysia. Wild Wild Rose is a musical adapted from the classic Mandarin movie of the same name produced by Cathay which was adapted from Bizet’s opera “Carmen”. Staring Perry Chiu and Zac Koo, the musical will feature popular songs from the movie such as Carmen and Madame Butterfly. “This musical will transport the audience back to the 1960s where music filled the nights,” Ko said.
He hoped the production was well received by the Penang audience and if it was a success, he may consider bringing more productions to Penang. As for any future endeavours, Ko said he will continue producing quality theatre productions to carve out a name for himself as a well-known director and producer. “Everyone knows Shakespeare and his plays long after he’s gone and this is why I continue working in this industry, to leave behind a name that someday everyone will remember,” he said.
高志森在2015年携着他的舞台音乐剧新作“野玫瑰之恋”来到马来西亚槟城 ，这部由王天林所执导的经典华语电影“野玫瑰之恋”，而原型为Bizet’s的“卡门”歌剧。这部由焦媛与高皓正主演的音乐剧将采用电影中的经典歌曲，如卡门和蝴蝶夫人。 “这部音乐剧将把记忆观众拉回20世纪60年代，是一个弥漫经典音乐的夜晚。 ”