Movie director, her documentary I’m Here won the Jury Award at the 2012 Macao International Film and Video Festival and was subsequently invited to various festivals in Asia and Europe. Choi received her MFA degree in Cinema Production from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Her graduation film Sometimes Naive was short-listed in the 2013 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival. The Farming on the Wasteland won the The Jury’s Commendation Award of the 2014 Macao International Film and Video Festival. Her latest production Sisterhood was selected in the competition section at the 1st International Film Festival & Awards‧Macao and won the Macao Audience Choice Award at the festival. In addition, Sisterhood got two nominations at the 36th Hong Kong Film Awards.
South Korean film Parasite’s great success at the Academy Awards (also known as Oscars) has stirred up viral discussions.
Even my mom (who actually hasn’t watched the film yet) told me that it must be every Asian film director’s dream to win an Oscar when I was having dinner with her on that day. I don’t really agree with the idea that winning an Oscar is a common dream for all Asian directors because many quality films in Asia might not really fit into the Hollywood circuit. But it is truly exciting to witness Parasite to be the first Asian film that takes four Academy Awards home, including Best Picture, Best Director, etc. In fact, Parasite had already received recognition at the Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first South Korean film to win a Golden Palm Award. In my opinion, film directors will definitely envy Parasite’s ability to appeal to two different kinds of film festivals, one that has more commercial considerations and one that highlights artistic expression while being able to garner a successful box office record. This means that Parasite has not only gained recognition for its artistic value but also won the heart of its audience. It is quite rare for a film to cater to both sides.
I believe the artistic value of Parasite has already been discussed by many and will continue to be a hot topic, therefore I will not dwell on it. What I am trying to explain in this article is the fact that Parasite’s success is not only contributed by its director and production team’s talent but also the overall development of the film industry in South Korea. For people living in Hong Kong and Macao, Korean films might not always be their top choice when going to the cinema. People might probably have a hard time trying to recall some Korean films they have watched besides Train to Busan. But if you are talking about K-Pop singers or Korean dramas, many people will know quite a lot about them. This does not necessarily mean the Korean film industry only emerged in recent years.
As a matter of fact, Korean films have enjoyed a long history of around a century, with lots of highlight moments and lows. During the past century, the South Korean government has been providing the country’s film industry with both supporting policies and restrictions. During the Japanese occupation period and the Park Chung-hee dictatorship period, Korean films were not able to enjoy the rights to free expression for a long time. Then when South Korea finally started to undergo market reform, Korean films were met with great competition from Hollywood films. This is why the government’s supporting policies and subsidies were crucial to the rise of the South Korean film industry. The South Korean government has been investing efforts in the cultural industry to increase its soft power to export culture since the 1990s. The results have been satisfying. South Korea’s K-Pop is now popular around the globe while Korean TV dramas are taking over major TV channels. And now, Korean films are also increasingly be seen and recognised at international film festivals.
Macao is also advocating to drive the development of its cultural industry in recent years. The successful case of South Korea will definitely become a reference for us. But there are lots of reasons why we cannot simply copy and paste South Korea’s success. Firstly, even though Macao was the first region in Greater China to have film projection equipment, we do not have a long history of making films. We are still exploring the area of film production like babies learning to walk. This makes it harder for the government to design relevant supporting policies since it is not a problem that can be solved simply through subsidies. We still need to take firm steps in evaluating approaches to nurturing different filmmaking talents, improving the industrial chain, exporting Macao’s movies to overseas markets, etc. The government’s support will not generate quick returns as well. It took South Korea around three decades to finally achieve the record they have today. It is impossible for Macao, who is still a newcomer in the industry, to pull off similar achievement in a short time. Of course, the success of the cultural industry is hugely decided by whether we can find talents. This is a variable that no one can effectively speculate. But the point about having government support is to ensure more people will have access to adequate opportunities that help them unleash their potential. If more people can gain opportunities, then it is more likely for us to find talents. Then the next step for us will be considering how we can better nurture these talents to help them go further in the industry. Support for the cultural industry has different layers. The government needs to provide adequate policies while professional talents in the film industry also need to be pioneering and entrepreneurial. Only through this way can we achieve great success.