Sabu plays up Hong Kong spirit


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HONG KONG -- As well as being a filmmaker, Sabu has learned that he needs to be a juggler.

The winner of the best new director award at the Cognac Film Festival for his second movie, back in 1997, Sabu is working on three big-screen projects, including "Dancing Mary."

After starting out as a singer and actor, Hiroyuki Tanaka adopted the nickname Sabu before turning to directing. With a long history of working in Hong Kong, his latest project is a horror-romance tale set in a city with which he has fallen in love.

"My work has been very popular in Hong Kong, and I have been invited to take part in the film festival several times," Sabu said. "A lot of local actors say they like my work, I have lots of friends here and I know the best locations.

"Many people like my movies, and I hope to win over more people," he said.

Taking part in the financing forum at the market, Sabu and producer Yuta Goto are seeking co-producers and funding for the picture, which has a price tag of $3.7 million.

Set in a ruined dance hall on a Hong Kong construction site, workers trying to pull the building down experience a series of accidents. Word spreads that an evil spirit resides in the building and a civil servant is ordered to look into the case.

An exorcism fails to dislodge the malignant spirit, but a local girl with psychic powers comes to his assistance.

"I am stunned by Hong Kong's peculiar charms every time that I attend the Hong Kong International Film Festival," Sabu said. "Gradually, I began to think about making a Hong Kong film, with local actors and crew.

"This story is not a conventional horror story, aiming only to scare the audience. Instead, it is a heartfelt film with both comic elements and romance at its heart. I am aiming to create what you could call 'tear-jerker horror.' "

The immediate target for the title is the broader Asian market rather than just Japan or Hong Kong, Sabu said, after which he believes it would fare well in Europe and the U.S. Previous works have won him awards at the Berlin International Film Festival.