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An Exclusive Interview
with Adrian Kwan Shun-fai
As one of the pinoeers of gospel film (or Christian film, whatever you want to
call it), Adrian Kwan Shun-fai is never tired of promoting a positive attitude
of life to the audience. This time, we are glad to have the opportunity to sit
down and talk with him. The primary topic is director Kwan's upcoming new movie
6 A.M., a whimsical light-hearted comedy featuring Boy'z. Director Kwan
was also nice enough to share some of his experience in making gospel film,
as well as to give us a brief overview of his filmmaking career. We would love to
thank him for spending a good afternoon with us.
Please enjoy the interview!
* Special thanks to EMP for arranging the interview.
* The interview was originally conducted in Cantonese.
Who is Adrian Kwan Shun-fai?
After winning his first award for a documentary at a film festival in
Canada, Adrian Kwan returned to Hong Kong and started his filmmaking
career in 1992. He spent 9 months at the TV studio and then broke into
the filmmaking field. Some of the projects he had participated in include
Peter Chan's Who's the Woman, Who's the Man, Comrades, Almost a Love Story
and Jackie Chan's Who Am I?. Later he finally became a director
and made several movies like Life is Miracle, If You Care...
and the box office hit Miracle Box.
Commonly known as a "gospel" director, Adrian Kwan always tries to include
some positive messages in his movie. He believes that a movie is a good tool
to enlighten the audience about the meaning of life.
6 A.M. is Adrian Kwan's latest movie. If you want to learn more about it,
feel free to visit its official website.
Reference: promotional materials from EMP
Cinespot: Let's begin with 6 A.M.. Tell us what it is about.
Kwan: It is a comedy, perhaps more specifically speaking, a black comedy. I'd
define it as Boy'z's version of Alice in Wonderland. Basically, the story
revolves around two ordinary high school students. Just like any teenagers of their age,
they do not care about anything. But then, one night, they have an unforgettable experience,
they are forced to particpate in a "glory mission", in which they have acquired a large
sum of money. At first, it begins with one dollar, and then it becomes $200, and at the
end, it accumulates to $300,000. Many things happen in this night, and through these
encounters they have learned a lesson.
Cinespot: How did you conceive this story?
Kwan: It all began with the producer of this movie, Tsang Kan-cheung, who also
happens to be the co-writer of the upcoming Kung Fu Hustle and the highest grossing
domestic movie Shaolin Soccer. I really admire his talent. One day when we were having tea time,
we talked about an interesting topic, that is, if we are suddenly given $1,000,000, and
we must use all the money up at once, as we are going to end up in jail or die in 6 hours,
what would we do? It was a very funny hypothesis, and we began to set up more and more
limitations and plot points, the structure of script was then gradually formed. If we
were the students, what would we do? We have done research by asking some students this
question, and most of them would choose to play in the first four hours, and then spend
the remaining two hours with their family. Then I realized that no matter how bad a student
is, at the end he would still want to stay with his family, I think it really aroused me.
Cinespot: The main actors are Boy'z. Why would you want to cast them?
Kwan: When I was conceiving the script of this teenager's fantasy, I understood that
only real young people would have such imaginations, like, to disguise as god of gamblers or
martial arts hero, so the main actors must be young. Boy'z came to my mind at once since
I quite enjoyed their performance in Death Curse, and most importantly, their ages
fit the roles! So I proposed it to the company, and later I got in touch with Boy'z and
we both agreed it was a good idea to do it. It is good that we also share some same hobbies,
like making models, playing video games and ball games. In short, I hope to make the movie
more energetic in order to attract younger audiences.
Cinespot: Boy'z are fledgling actors and they certainly aren't very exeprienced.
So how would you direct their acting?
Kwan: We used several scenes to consider how they would fit the roles. We had in-depth talks at
least six to seven times prior to the shooting. During the rehearsal, The producer and I
would be there monitoring and discussing the script with them, and see how we could modify
or adjust the roles to fit them. They are really fresh after all, it would be better for
them to do something that parallel to their own background, so I tried not to make the
personalities of their roles too extreme. But on the other hand, I also wanted them to have
the opportunity to exhibit their talents. It is not an easy process as we have to really
understand each other, so I guess it is important for a director to make friends with the
actors first. A better understanding and trustable relationship are very beneficial to
communications. In this regard, we did a good job.
Cinespot: In this movie, a lot of the characters have dual personalities. For instance,
ostensibly Ray Lui's character seems to be a revered gang boss, but in fact he is very snobbish.
Why would you want to make the characters this way?
Kwan: Our aim is to make things hard to predict. There are many things that we are not
able to see or discover superficially. For example, Chan Wai-man is always an acrobatic and
solemn master to many people, but when I visited his home, I found out that he is actually
a family man, he really cares about his family and his house is very tidy; Ray Lui looks
reserved and quiet but in fact he loves his wife very much. The message we wanted to convey
is that in some senses everyone has dual personalities or identities, like in the movie, Chan
Wai-man is a powerful gang boss in front of the students, but in the gang group, he is
merely a low rank member. We hope to switch the POV a bit, allowing audience to discover the
other sides of perhaps Ray Lui or Tats Lau.
Cinespot: Sometimes ago there was a tabloid coverage saying some educators were
disappointed with a scene in the movie as they believed that scene contains negative
depiction of the image of students. What is your view on this matter?
Kwan: First off I don't know how they got to see the movie (according to the tabloid,
it was a special premiere, but director Kwan said he didn't know there was such a premiere). If
anyone has seen the movie, he should know that there is actually no negative depiction. That
short scene is only an imagination of the two students playing with their friends on the boat.
I really don't know where the newspaper acquired such news, and I also didn't really receive
any complaints about it.
Cinespot: Apart from those we talked above, is there any special message you want to
convey through this movie?
Kwan: There is always a turnabout (alternatives)! That is actually a common theme in my
movies including If You Care..., Miracle Box and Life is a Miracle. It is a
belief that I always persist in. In 6 A.M., although the dead end for the two students is
6 a.m., they discover that there is actually an alternatives at that time. At that night, they have
experienced a lot. At the moment of life and death, they finally realize that there is an exit!
The message I want to convey is that, "never give up!" No matter how tough the situation is, there
is always a solution, there must be a turnabout. And this message is not only for students, but
also for their parents and anyone else.
From If You Care... to Miracle Box
Cinespot: Let's switch the topic a bit and talk about your previous works. For those
of us who have seen it, we certainly know that If You Care... contains a very positive
message, but somehow with its title (Chinese), promotional posters and trailers, it might give
the audience a feeling that it is just another nonsensical farce, and in fact, the same also
happens to 6 A.M. this time. So are you afraid that the audience might build up the
wrong expectations for your movies?
Kwan: I think a good movie, no matter comedy, action or thriller, usually contains
implicit messages to enlighten the audience. Take some successful foreign films as example,
apart from the entertainment value, there are always some messages for the audiences to grasp.
In addition to entertain, I would love to add some bonuses to the movie. I believe that a
movie should not be too didactic, it should rather be able to be interesting yet meaningful, or to combine
the messages into the story skillfully. "Educational" (or propaganda) movie is probably
too hard to attract the audience. In general, the first priority of doing any kind of (commercial)
movie is to entertain, and the next thing is to enhance it with some meaningful messages. For
instance, no matter what kind of message you want to carry out, a comedy is nevertheless a
comedy. If it fails to generate laughter, it is not a successful comedy!
Cinespot: In If You Care..., Eason Chan's performance is absolutely amazing.
His vivid facial expression totally steals the show. So was he the first choice for the role when
you guys were writing the script?
Kwan: I always thought Eason Chan is a talented artiste. I love his song, his work ethic and
certainly his charisma, therefore when I was planning on If You Care..., I already had him on
mind. He didn't have too many comical roles at that time, so it would be interesting to cast him
the role. Moreover, his songs, especially those about family relationships which I love, also fit
the style of the movie.
Cinespot: Miracle Box was a big hit at the box office early this year, and it was also reported
as the highest grossing domestic Christian film, so did you expect such a hype?
Kwan: No, I didn't expect it at that time. When I was making this meaningful movie, I just wanted to do
my best. That's the same I told my actors, we would do our best and wait for the outcome. By the way,
I just rewatched the movie again yesterday, and I was still moved by some of the scenes. I really feel
great that the movie does succeed in touching the heart of the audience.
Cinespot: Miracle Box was adapted from the real life story of Dr. Tse Yuen-man (Dr. Tse passed
away on duty in 2003 during the SARS attack). Many of us would expect it to be about Dr. Tse's struggle at
the hospital during the SARS attack, but it turned out to be totally different from what we expected, the movie instead
features the love story of Dr. Tse and her dying husband. Why would you want to do that?
Kwan: When I was studying the story of Dr. Tse Yuen-man, I realized that in order to tell a
biography in narrative form (but not documentary), there must be a focus. I did some research
on Dr. Tse and asked myself a question, which part of her story is the most compelling? To me, I
wanted to take the "cause and effect" approach. The "effect" is how she boldly stepped into the ER to take
care of the SARS patient. But it was something everyone in Hong Kong was aware of, so it probably wasn't a
good idea to do it. Then I began to ask, how did she stand out among all the other doctors or medical
workers? I believe it was because of her peculiar love story. Not only did she sacrifice her life, she also
lost her husband who died of cancer sometimes ago. Why would she want to marry her husband even though
he had cancer? I thought it was a very remarkable love story, a story that could back up her character and
formulate a complete picture of this person, a story that is truly unforgettable. It is this "cause"
that really interested me.
In Part II of the interview, director Adrian Kwan talks about his filmmaking
career and his view on the development of Christian film in Hong Kong. Please click
here to go to Part II!