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An Exclusive Interview
with Pang Ho-cheung
(Part I)



Pang Ho-cheung (aka. Edmond Pang) is one of the most promising young directors in Hong Kong now. His movies are highly praised by both critics and general audience. His latest movie Beyond Our Ken was just premiered at the prestigious Tokyo International Film Festival. We're glad to have the opportunity to meet and ask him about this new movie. Director Pang was generous enough to spend a good afternoon with us talking not only about Beyond Our Ken, but also about his career as a movie director and a detail review of his previous works. We would love to thank him for sharing his invaluable time with us.

Please enjoy the interview!

* Special thanks to Making Film for arranging the interview.
* The interview was originally conducted in Cantonese.

Who is Pang Ho-cheung?

Pang Ho-cheung (aka. Edmond Pang) was born in Hong Kong in 1973. He began making short film with his brother at 15. After he finished high school, he got a screenwriting job at HKATV, and he also started to write movie reviews and novels. In 1995, Pang wrote the short movie script of Out of the Blue for Commercial radio, which was later directed by Jam Lam and was well received at various international film festivals.

In 1997, Pang finished his first novel Fulltime Killer, it soon became a bestseller. Andy Lau purchased the right of the novel and later transferred it to Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai, thus turning it into a feature film. The main cast is Andy Lau and Takeshi Sorimachi

In 1999, Pang spent about US$15,000 to make his first short movie Summer Assignment (literally translated), for which he won an award at IFVA HK. It was also the first short from Hong Kong that got an nomination at the Golden Horse Film Award Ceremony in Taiwan.

In 2001, at the age of 27, Pang directed his first feature You Shoot, I Shoot in 15 days, with a low budget of US$500,000. It was welcome by the audience as well as the critics. In 2003, his second film Men Suddenly in Black won him the best new director at the Hong Kong Film Award Ceremony.

This year, in 2004, Pang Ho-cheung made his third feature film Beyond Our Ken. The film was invited to attend Tokyo International Film Festival, where the Japanese also held a special programme screening his previous works.

If you want to learn more about his latest movie Beyond Our Ken, please check out its official website.

Reference: Making Film

  Pang Ho-cheung  

Beyond Our Ken

Cinespot: First of all, have you visited our website before? You were selected by the reviewers on our website as the best director of the year 2003. (Readers please rlease read here for details.)

Pang: Yes. I know this news. My colleague told me about it before. Thank you very much.

Cinespot: Ok, now back to our primary topic, your new movie Beyond Our Ken. Perhaps you can tell us something about it.

Pang: This movie is quite different from my previous works. First, it is not a comedy, and I also tried to change the style a bit. This time I employ an episodic narrative structure to tell the story. The style also leans more toward a documentary approach.

Cinespot: How did you conceive this story?

Pang: The inspiration came from the old days when I was studying in Taiwan. One of my female friends took some intimate pictures with her boyfriend. Later they broke up and that guy spread the pictures everywhere in the dorm, so she wanted to get the pictures back. At first I didn't know her, she was just a friend of my female friends. They asked me to help her to steal the pictures back. I thought it was a really interesting experience, and I always wanted to turn it into a movie script, but I just didn't know how to start. It was not until early this year when I was in Rome, where I listened to an Italian song, that I began to rethink it. The song inspired me a lot and from the melody, the story just slow began to visualize in my mind. That's how I began writing the script!

Cinespot: So it's based on real people and incident?

Pang: Yes, to a certain extent. But this kind of story is quite common among us, no matter in Hong Kong or Taiwan, it just happens everywhere.

Cinespot: The Chinese film title Revenge of a Princess (literally translated) is quite interesting. It sounds really like a wuxia movie.

Pang: Yes, when Gillian Chung first heard about it, she thought it was an action movie too. I really like this film title, because I believe that every girl will fancy herself as a princess, and she will want to find her prince, just like in a fairy tale. But later she will discover that her lover is never going to be a prince, and she is not a princess herself. In fact, there is simply no prince or princess in this world.

Cinespot: Talking about the actors, both of your previous works You Shoot, I Shoot and Men Suddenly in Black focus on male characters. How come this time you would want to position two female, Gillian Chung and Tao Hong, as the leads?

Pang: Don't forget Daniel Wu! But you are right, he doesn't really share a lot of the screening time, because the focus is always on the two girls. I actually love filming women. However, it seems that movies featuring all female leads always fail to secure the box office profit, and investors simply don't want to spend money on such projects. That's why most movies have male leads. Personally, I really enjoy telling story of the delicate relationships among women. Luckily, I'm able to do that this time as Meiah (the distributor of this movie) really gave me strong support.

Cinespot: Why did you pick Gillian Chung and Tao Hong?

Pang: I always like Twins, and really want to work with them. I thought Gillian is a good fit for this role in the movie, so I suggested it to the company, and they also liked my idea. As for Tao Hong, I became interested to work with her after I have seen her film Life Show. In that film, there is also a role coming to Hong Kong from mainland. After I met her, I became more confident that she would be a good fit, and I also found out that she is really a hardworking actress.

Cinespot: Gillian Chung's role is quite different from what she has done before, as she looks much more mature this time. So how did you direct her acting?

Pang: I think Gillian can have a wide acting range. It is only that when we watch the performance of Twins, we always pay our attention to Charlene Choi, who happens to be more active. Gillian, the quiet one, is therefore usually ignored by us. Actually, her unique charm can be demonstrated by her quiet and contemplative character.

Cinespot: How would you rate the performance of your two female leads?

Pang: I enjoy both of their performances. I think Gillian's tearful face is beautiful. I really couldn't stand girls weeping, but I do enjoy seeing Gillian weep. What is cool about her is that she is really a good "weeper". She can weep at will, she doesn't even need any eyedropper to help. Sometimes when I was filming several takes, I would ask her, "Gillian, do you still have tears?" She would say yes, and the tears would just come out from her eyes immediately. She is really a good actress! As for Tao Hong, just like I said before, she is a very hardworking and attentive actress, she spent a lot of time studying and analyzing the script.

Cinespot: You Shoot, I Shoot is about a team of assassins; Men Suddenly in Black is a group of husbands; While in Beyond Our Ken, it is also about the pairing of two girls trying to steal pictures. Why do you always love to do groups of characters?

Pang: I didn't really intend to do that. I just enjoy filming what I like, so when I think something is interesting, it may soon become my subject. If I want to tell a story to the audience, first I have to make sure this story really interests me. I mostly get my inspiration from the story happening around my daily life.

Cinespot: Men Suddenly in Black did really well at the box office and it was also welcome by both the critics and the audience. Does it give you a lot of pressure this time?

Pang: I didn't try to think about this question, I hope in this way it wouldn't give me too much pressures. To me, the most important thing for a director is to make a good movie. I believe that if a movie is good, people will like it. If people like it, it will do well at the box office, and if the box office record is good, it will win reputations. But certainly, in reality it is not that simple. In order to market a movie, there are a lot to consider, for instance, the premiere date, competing films, promotions, everything needs to be carefully planned. But these works are usually beyond the control of a director, so I would simply focus on my part and let the film company and distributor take care of the rest.

Cinespot: Beyond Our Ken was premiered at Tokyo International Film Festival. How was the reaction there?

Pang: Very good! It was really nice as Japanese distributor bought the movie even though they haven't seen it beforehand. The movie will receive its theatrical release in Japan soon following the festival.

Cinespot: Tokyo International Film Festival also held a special programme screening your previous works, and you are the third director who got such honor following Wong Kar Wai and Fruit Chan, so how do you feel about it? Among your works, what is your favorite one?

Pang: I don't try to compare with them, as our movies belong to different genres, and my filmmaking career is also a lot younger, but still, I am very happy about it. My favorite work is certainly Beyond Our Ken!

Cinespot: Knowing that your previous works are welcome by Japanese audience, what is your initial reaction?

Pang: I am certainly very happy! Actually in addition to Japan, You Shoot, I Shoot was also picked up by a Korean distributor. They also bought the right of Men Suddenly in Black and are planning to turn it into a TV drama. I believe that Hong Kong movies should not be made for Hong Kong audience only. If it is a good movie, it should be a universal product!

Cinespot: But sometimes, cultural barrier may prevent audience from understanding the humors in local comedies. What do you think about it?

Pang: I think comedy has two different levels. Cultural barrier is inevitable, so for some linguistic gags like Cantonese word games, they certainly won't understand, it is like when we watch Korean movies, there are also some colloquial gags we won't get. On another level, the dramatic conflict of a comedy is actually quite universal. For instance, no matter Hong Kong comedy Enter the Phoenix, or Korean comedy My Wife is a Gangster, the dramatic situations are universal. Take Friends as an example, although some of us may not speak English, we are still able to comprehend the story as there are always some points that we can find agree or resound with, because interpersonal relationships and the absurdity of human interactions, if well written, are always universal.

Cinespot: Ok, what about the box office expectation for Beyond Our Ken?

Pang: I don't have much pressure about it. I remember the box office record of my first movie You Shoot, I Shoot was quite bad, but I was still happy; Then Men Suddenly in Black did pretty well, I also felt happy. This time, I tried not to think too much about it, as it is not something that is controllable by me. Perhaps I'll be leaving Hong Kong for a trip when the movie comes out, because that's what I used to do before. Rather than monitoring the box office result every day, I would spend more time to begin my next project! Last time when I was in Japan, a reporter asked me, "How come you, among other Hong Kong directors, make movies so slow? A lot of them make 3 or 4 movies a year." I then replied, "Sorry, even if I don't sleep or eat, I simply can't make 4 movies a year..." I am not really a fast worker, but since I know that some people are actually waiting for my new movie, perhaps this time I'll just work harder and see if I can finish a new movie by early next year. I already have a complete story right now, it only needs some minor modifications and it is then ready to begin shooting.

Pang Ho-cheung   Pang Ho-cheung

In Part II of the interview, director Pang Ho-cheung talks about his filmmaking career and his previous works. Please click here to go to Part II!