'Turning Point' for Shaw, Hong Kong film

Maverick Yau helms first new Shaw Brothers pic in 22 years

Related: Shaw Brothers returns with trio of films

HONG KONG -- Director Herman Yau's "Turning Point," which hits local theaters Thursday, marks the return of the Shaw Brothers after a 22-year absence from filmmaking. The film is significant for other reasons as well.

"Turning Point," an undercover cop-in-gangland big-screen prequel to Television Broadcasts Ltd.'s hit "E.U." ("Emergency Unit"), has boosted its cinematic pedigree by putting the maverick Yau at the helm and enlisting top-notch Asian actors Anthony Wong ("Beast Cop", "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor"), Francis Ng ("The Mission") and Eric Tsang ("Infernal Affairs").

The film revolves around the actors plus Michael Tse, who played the standout character in the TV series. TVB has unleashed a full-scale advertising campaign for the film.

Yau said that he saw his job as taking the story from its small-screen origins and giving it a cinematic energy and flavor. Of course, having the Shaw Brothers name behind the film helps.

Having grown up on a steady diet of Shaw Brothers films, Yau found that "to be able to have the classic Shaw Brothers' 'SB' logo in one of my films is quite special. We all thought Shaw Brothers had stopped making movies. Now, not only does it make a comeback, but I'm the one to direct its first film in 22 years. It's a privilege."

Yau is a Hong Kong favorite whose diverse credits include true-crime slasher "The Untold Story," the comedy "Happy Family," the socially conscious "From the Queen to the Chief Executive" and the animated "Old Master Q 2001."

He says the return of Shaw, in a joint venture with its partly owned subsidiary TVB, will give the local biz a shot in the arm.

"It means there's one more major employer for local filmmakers and crews," said Yau, who works closely with three loyal crews on different films and units, sometimes simultaneously. "Although many Hong Kong filmmakers are working in China, there are still a lot of crew members left in Hong Kong."

"Turning Point" became the first film to use the new postproduction center at the $180 million Shaw Studios compound in Hong Kong's Tseung Kwan O. Yet Yau said that high-tech facilities serve only as facilitators for human talent as he watches the state of local cinema with trepidation.

"For the past few years, there's been no local essence in Hong Kong films," he said. "The films made were either geared toward a Chinese (mainland) audience or Hollywood-style blockbusters. People are always talking about heritage conservation; now Hong Kong cinema is something that deserves to be conserved."

Yau notes that government assistance can be a double-edged sword. Policies like the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement provide opportunities for Hong Kong studios and filmmakers to gain access to the mammoth Chinese market, but filmmakers also have to follow guidelines and policies that might stifle creativity and cost Hong Kong pics their flavor.

"Made in accordance with policies and the system, the resulting films may have lost their uniqueness," said Yau, whose "Whispers and Moans" and "True Women for Sale," with their sex-worker subject matter and social commentary, did not make an attempt to release in China.

Besides "Turning Point," Yau has completed gangster drama "Rebellion" for Universe Films for an Oct. 8 release and is now shooting black comedy "Split Second Murders" for Mei Ah Entertainment, scheduled for Christmas.

He is then set to helm the sequel to Chinese New Year hit "All's Well Ends Well Too 2010" for producer Raymond Wong as well as a story of the youthful days of the martial arts master in "Young Ip Man" for National Arts Entertainment. Both Hong Kong-Chinese co-productions are slated for 2010 release.