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Hong Kong Auteur Yonfan Relishes His Role as Talent Scout

Yonfan
Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

The BIFF jury head is called a 'star maker' in the Asian film world.

BUSAN, South Korea -- Hong Kong auteur Yonfan is quickly becoming the international festival circuit’s best judge of young talent.

As head of the jury at the Busan International Film Festival New Currents competition, Yonfan is being asked to choose among the best new talents in Asia or elsewhere for the third time following stints at the Sydney Film Festival in May 2010, and then as the head of jury at Hong Kong's Asian Film Awards last March.

In Busan Yonfan will head a jury that includes Chinese actress Jiang Wenli, Japanese actor Odagiri Joe, Korean producer Oh Jung-wan and former Cannes Film Festival programmer Olivier Père to judge a selection of 13 films from new directors across Asia. It’s a role he is especially comfortable with. Known as a star maker in the Asian film world, Yonfan’s cast lists are like a who’s- who of Hong Kong cinema: Maggie Cheung and Jacky Cheung got their start with him, as did Daniel Wu, who took his first acting role in Yonfan’s Bishonen in 1998 after the director spotted him in a television commercial.

“I think when you work with people with potential, it’s challenging and enlightening” he said Yonfan. “They know you give them a long shot, to give them time to express themselves, so they give you their best.”

While he downplays his reputation as star maker, the 63-year-old helmer says he will employ the same knack for spotting talent at Busan that he has employed throughout his career.

 

“I don’t think you can call me a star maker,” he said, “but I recognize beautiful things and I recognize talent. I have an eye to bring out the best of everything. I have an eye to bring out the best in Chow Yun-fat when he was work- ing in the industry for a long time; to bring out the actress quality in Maggie Cheung when everyone at the time thought she was a slapstick comedienne and she did her first dramatic role with me.”

Fans will be able to learn more about the director’s technique when he publishes a Chinese-language memoir detailing his experiences at the end of the year.

For those who can’t wait, Yonfan will present a master class on Oct. 11 as part of a BIFF retrospective that will screen seven of his films, including Double Fixation and Peony Pavillion.