How the Chinese will corrupt Hong Kong cinema

Hong Kong produced many of the coolest movies of the 1980s and 1990s. But we have entered more troubling times:

…the mainland Chinese government passed an initiative called the Cooperative Economic Partnership Agreement. CEPA was basically a bone-toss to various Hong Kong industries–it offers them small tax breaks on their imports to the mainland. But to the Hong Kong film industry, CEPA offered more: the chance for Hong Kong films to be considered “local” (as opposed to foreign) for the purposes of mainland Chinese distribution. This is a big deal, because China imposes limits on foreign films–only about 25 are allowed in each year. On paper, at least, CEPA looks to be a lifesaver for Hong Kong film.

But there’s a catch–a big one–which Pang explained to me when we spoke in his office. “In order to get in with CEPA, one-third of your cast has to be mainland actors, and you have to have a mainland production partner. OK, but then, you have to submit your script to the Chinese censorship guy. And you submit your film after you make it. They have rules: You can’t make movies about ghosts. You can’t have sex. Forget about politics. And bad guys always have to lose; good guys must always win.”

Pang’s Men Suddenly in Black is about four errant husbands who go out on a yearly mission to get themselves laid. They romp through Hong Kong’s brothels and nightclubs, swapping juicy Cantonese double-entendres as they go. I’m shocked when Pang tells me that this film actually got screened in mainland China. “They dubbed it into Mandarin and just wrote new dialogue over the parts that were too heavy. Like when they were in the massage parlor in Mongkok, in the new version they were just someplace waiting for a friend. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

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