Q&A | Carina Lau: ‘The rise of Chinese cinema has left Hong Kong behind’

One of the Talent Ambassadors of this year’s International Film Festival & Awards – Macao (IFFAM), Carina Lau demonstrated a bold friendliness during her interview with international press yesterday.

With a career spanning film, television, music and fashion, Lau said she could not imagine retiring as long as she is still loved by audiences. Starting her career in television, she jumped to cinema screens and found fame there. In 1991, she played a role in Wong Kar Wai’s Days of Being Wild, which brought her recognition as that year’s Best Actress from the Three Continents Festival in Nantes, France.

She was awarded the Best Actress at the Osaka Asian Film Festival for her role in Bends (2013). In 2015, in the stage production Tonnochy, Lau was nominated for the 24th Hong Kong Drama Awards for the first time and won Best Actress.

Although never starred in a Hollywood production, she became a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the engine behind the prestigious Oscars Awards, in 2017.

In yesterday’s interview, Lau said that her love for cinema was not about money. She pointed out that she has starred in wonderful small productions without taking a penny.

Lau said she anticipates the development of Macau’s fledging film industry and said that she is fond of the city. However, the Suzhou-born actress also said she worries that the Hong Kong film industry is stagnating and has already been overshadowed by the rapid development of mainland cinema.

As the IFFAM’s Talent Ambassador, how do you view today’s talent in Hong Kong film?

Carina Lau – Unfortunately, the film industry of Hong Kong has [been surpassed by the mainland]. Perhaps it was caused by the strong rise of mainland cinema in the past decade. I think Hong Kong has strong and competent directors, actors and actresses, who stay active in the mainland and other parts of the world. I think it’s time Hong Kong revamped its film industry, because back in the 1980’s and 90’s, the influence of Hong Kong’s films reached Southeast Asia, even the world. I think these talents are still here. Hong Kong is still in the old position. No good director or good actor was willing to emerge. This is a serious problem. I hope we can sort out the reason. Meanwhile, I also hope that the government can provide more support to the film industry, so that the industry can keep moving forward.

What has changed in Chinese cinema?

Carina Lau – With the support of large investment, our productions have become much larger than before, also in terms of the size of audience. However, I think that mainland Chinese films still lack certain things. For example, scripts lack the depth to facilitate human reflection. The film industry is mainly about commercial productions now, which focus more on the money side. I hope there will be more productions that can delve into human lives or humanity.

What are your thoughts on the development of Macau’s film industry?

Carina Lau – I look forward to the development of the film industry of Macau and seeing more Macau productions. After this participation in the IFFAM, I feel that the Macau government is very supportive of the film industry. I believe that the industry needs to be supported by each department of the government. I appreciate this very much. With all the support, I hope the film industry of Macau will have a better future.

You have a cameo role in ‘A City Called Macau’, which is also showing at the festival. What moment or aspect of the film most resonates with you?

Carina Lau – This film tells a story that happened in Macau in a relatively complete fashion. I think it was made with great aesthetic standards, also with a lot of Portuguese culture. It also highlights some scenarios that occurred after Macau’s handover to China. I think the best part is that it has translated a message to us. The message is that if you want to play the game, you need to pay for it.

What is your next production going to be?

Carina Lau – I’m still waiting for opportunities, but I’m actually looking into some scripts [proposals] now. I hope it’s going to be a pure Hong Kong production. Meanwhile, I have plans to become a producer. I’m interested in making something like Ocean’s Eleven.

What role would you love to portray?

Carina Lau – My neighbor, Mrs Wong, maybe, who is a very normal housewife. She may be a middle-aged woman, like me, facing internal change and danger, both psychologically and physically. She may be facing family crisis or marriage crisis. She is just a normal figure.

Outside of film and television, you are involved in the fashion scene. Why did you decide to become a designer?

Carina Lau – I have liked fashion since I was small. Only after becoming the creative director of my fashion brand, did I realize that making a piece of apparel is nothing easy. The entire process starts from conceptualization, deciding on the materials, to production and sales and marketing, which are all very interesting to me. Most importantly, I believe fashion coexists with films. I actually have got many of my creative inspirations from films. Good fashion is timeless.

It seems today that the famous cannot escape the prying eye of the public. What do you think should be done to safeguard privacy in the digital age?

Carina Lau – I think things have their own ways of operation in different period or times. [Formerly], each entertainer was well polished before they were shown to the public. They were well protected. Now, with the effect of social media platforms, each entertainer is expected to present themselves very honestly. Live interviews are getting popular on social media now. The good side of it is that you can let your audience know what you are really like.

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