Ho Ka Cheng

Supervisor of Audio-Visual CUT Association. One of the directors of Macau Stories 1, also involved in Macau Stories 2─Love in the City and Macau Stories 3City Maze. Macau Stories 2Love in the City received a special mention at Portugal’s Avanca Film Festival, and was shown at film festivals in Tokyo and Osaka.

The soil of Macao’s film industry

05 2015 | Issue 5

The story of the development of Macao’s film industry can be divided into three parts.

The first is production, which can be divided into commercial and non-commercial films. While it might be difficult to find Macao films that fit the typical definition of “commercial”, we can still try. “Commercial” here describes movies that suit the tastes of the general public, that are about an hour and a half long and are screened in cinemas. “Non-commercial” films are more individualistic, such as so-called micro-films.

The second is promotion, which refers either to bringing foreign films to Macao, or promoting Macao films overseas. Bringing in non-mainstream, non-commercial, arthouse type films from abroad definitely helps to educate the Macao audience, giving people a more diverse selection of films beyond the usual general release productions. It could also help develop the city’s film industry.

But Macao films must also look beyond Macao so that people elsewhere can learn about Macao’s culture. For now, Macao films are not shown commercially in other countries, but at least they should be made available to increase cultural exchanges between Macao and other places.

The third is film education, both in the professional and liberal sense. The former refers to teaching in colleges, including directing, acting, technical education, as well as screenwriting, distribution, promotion, film festival planning, film theory and so forth, which are all important. At the moment, none of those skills can exist as standalone industries in Macao. One cannot make a viable living in Macao just from screenwriting. But it is important that students in higher education should be given the exposure to all these aspects of the industry.

Liberal film education refers to, for example, promoting film in primary and secondary schools. Using film as a medium, teachers can broaden students’ horizons and stoke their interest in a wide variety of issues around the world as well as their critical thinking skills. Through film, students can learn about human existence and experience different human interactions, helping them construct values and worldviews.

Macao still doesn’t have a sizeable film industry, but we have taken the first step. To start with, we need to construct a healthy environment for films to allow the industry development. To achieve this, three kinds of people need to come together––film producers, film researchers and the audience. Only when they are joined tightly together can the film industry thrive in the right ecology. For example, after someone produces a film, and neither the general public nor film commentators/researchers show any interest in it, it would be impossible to capitalise on the cultural values of the film. This is not healthy for the development of Macao’s film industry. “Healthy” means that local film productions should be entertaining from a commercial sense, but also possess cultural and historical values that provoke inspiration and reflection in people. When producers, researchers and the audience join together it will lay the foundation for the development of a healthy film industry in Macao that is diverse, innovative and substantive.

The government has been putting more and more funding into the film industry in the past decade. Local audiences are also paying more attention to Macao productions. Filmmakers are steadily improving in quality and quantity. But Macao still lacks talent in film studies, which can help deepen the meaning and value of local productions. As yet, no one is able to open the door for film studies in Macao. A comprehensive culture of film criticism will provide a source of reference for future filmmakers and help broaden their creative dimension. New filmmakers can draw on the works of their predecessors to help them move forward and not repeat mistakes.