IFFAM – Ivo Ferreira | Latest film to breath life into iconic Macau Floating Casino

Ivo Ferreira

Macau-based, Portuguese film director Ivo Ferreira is planning a new film shot entirely in Macau, called “Empire Hotel”. The film, which will commence shooting in February, tells the story of two characters and their connection to the “Empire Hotel” with the iconic Macau Floating Casino as its prime location.

At a press conference on Tuesday during the International Film Festival & Awards – Macau (IFFAM), director Ivo Ferreira and other leading cast and crew behind the film shared their artistic concept.

“I used to live near the Inner Harbor and the [Macau] Floating Casino was the only one I used to visit. There was a strange atmosphere and contrast in it: something strong and yet so fragile, that floats. I like the contradiction […] it is a contradiction that is similar to Macau in some ways,” Ferreira said about the use of the casino in the film.

The film “reflects on the present-day effects of historical and cultural relations, the importance of urban heritage and on building an identity through people,” said Ferreira. Drawing on this, the film’s cast will use Cantonese, Mandarin, English and Portuguese languages, though it remains unclear (even to the directing and producing team) how this will be incorporated in a logistics sense.

The film’s cast is highly international, hailing from Portugal, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong, starring Portuguese actress Margarida Vila-Nova and Taiwanese British actor Rhydian Vaughan in the leading roles.

Speaking to the Times after the press conference, Ivo Ferreira commented on the emerging movement in Macau’s film industry, highlighted previously by IFFAM former director, Marco Müller.

“For sure, there is a new movement in film [in Macau],” he said in agreement with Müller’s observation. “Something is happening and I’m very proud to be a part of it. […] I never had a chance to be part [of other movements], but I thought: maybe I can be part of something in Macau. And it’s really happening.”

“I hope that this movement will be as romantic as sexy as the other [film] movements were,” added Ferreira. “And I think that it already is.”

Ferreira, who has previously been vocal in his criticism of the IFFAM, also shared his thoughts on whether the festival can help to transform Macau into an international film hub.

Asked whether he believes its possible to achieve this within a few decades, Ferreira said that it was still unlikely. “For Macau, it’s difficult. It’s really expensive and difficult here [for filmmakers] and so I don’t think that Macau can become a film hub,” he said, before quickly adding, “But I hope it works!”

“Of course, to get a permit to film in Macau is much easier than getting one in China, but what is interesting to us is for people to come to Macau, to film in Macau and to get the word [out],” he explained. “If this is the idea then there must be a great effort to support this. I’m not just talking about the government [but also] the private partners like the hotels.”

Another problem is the size of the potential audience in Macau. Being so small, Ferreira believes that local productions need to be exported abroad to have any chance of financial success and therefore sustainability.

“The audience in Macau is small,” he said. “You can’t do anything in Macau if you don’t export: it doesn’t make sense. You can’t make a film just for audiences in Macau.”

Nevertheless, the Macau-based film director expressed his hope that the film festival continues in the years ahead and that the organizing parties “can work to make this festival as good as possible.”

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