Busan: 'Gangster Pay Day' Looks to Evoke Hong Kong Cinema's Golden Years

Courtesy of Busan International Film Festival
'Gangster Pay Day'

The filmmakers of the fest's closing film will continue pushing Cantonese-language films amid the dominance of Mandarin titles geared for Mainland China

The Busan International Film Festival closes its 19th edition on Saturday with Gangster Pay Day, a rare Cantonese film that captures modern Hong Kong, but in a way that is evocative of the industry's 1980s-'90s golden years. Its filmmakers take pride in creating something quintessentially local amid the dominance of co-productions with Mandarin works targeting Mainland China.

"We are hoping to show pure Hong Kong culture through the film," Shirley Yung, the film's producer, told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday.

"My company [Sundream Motion Pictures Limited] has been trying to make a lot of Hong Kong films that are purely about Hong Kong culture. Big skyscrapers have been replacing a lot of the old small shops in the city, and I really hope people will remember old Hong Kong through the film," said Yung, who has produced over 30 titles since 1991.

A unique cross between a gangster noir and romantic comedy, Gangster features veteran actor Anthony Wong as a retired Triad boss who falls for a young woman (Charlene Choi) and tries to help save the restaurant passed down from her father.

Read more 'Gangster Pay Day': Busan Review

"Hong Kong's economic situation isn't exactly thriving and this affects local gangsters too. Many gangsters have actually retired or are considering switching professions in recent years, and I wanted to capture their struggles making ends meet in my film. Hong Kong is changing very much and I really wanted to capture things before they disappear," said the film's director Lee Po Cheung during a press conference.

"Presenting a Hong Kong film as the festival's closing title is a meaningful way to showcase the new changes in Hong Kong cinema," said BIFF director Lee Yong-kwan. This year, the fest also named Hong Kong filmmaker Ann Hui its 2014 Asian Filmmaker of the Year.

Gangster will be released in mainland China in mid-November, in both Cantonese and dubbed Mandarin versions. Last year, Chinese policies were relaxed and Cantonese-language films are no longer required to be dubbed in Mandarin.

Yung said that while co-productions with the mainland have become important in Hong Kong, she thinks it's also important to continue making Cantonese-language films.

"Many of the mainland Chinese audiences loved Hong Kong's [Cantonese gangster] films from the 1980s and 1990s, and Gangster Payday is the type of film that brings back old memories," she said.

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