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The Fruit Chan Independent Film Making
Independent filmmakers were revived in Hong Kong in the 1990s, especially with the creation of Hong Kong Arts Development Council (ADC). The period marked the resurgence of independent movies in 1993 when the Independent Short Film competition was revived. In the same period, Hong Kong Art Centre was funded to organize an independent Video Award and the film making facilities (Berry, 2005). Fruit Chan is among the pioneers in the independent cinema in Hong Kong. This paper focuses on the study of independent filmmakers in Hong Kong with a special emphasis on the Fruit Chan. It focuses on what defines an independent film making.
Characteristics of Hong Kong Independent Cinema
Some qualities are highly uniform in the independent filmmaking including the filmmakers using their own efforts to raise funds. The independent filmmaking is also characterized by fresh perspectives that are exhibited in the works of filmmakers. The pioneering energy is also obvious in the independent filmmaking, alongside the personal vision of filmmakers (Gan, 2005). Therefore, autonomy is a central notion in the independent filmmaking. Independence is also indicated when a producer takes control over as a producer, scriptwriter, and director in the artwork. This is clear in such independent filmmakers like Tang Shu-Shuen who was among the initial independent scriptwriters (Berry, 2005).
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In the Western scholarship, the films that are produced outside the studio and those that carry a spirit of autonomy depict the notion of independent scriptwriters. The definition in this scholarship also holds that the independent filmmaking is only independent from the dominant system. Independent filmmakers are different from the mainstream filmmakers (Gan, 2005). Independent filmmakers are, thus, denoted by their creativity and the fact that they make their personally experienced work for them. Independent filmmaking is also cited to be highly innovative as compared to the mainstream filmmaking (Berry, 2005).
The independent filmmakers seek funds from their country and abroad. The independent filmmakers have also been depicted as a class that shows much influence on their expressions. Many of them defy the work done by mainstream producers to be primarily production oriented. The independent producers are also noted to cite the fact that the mainstream industry is so lucrative as compared to the independent filmmakers (Gan, 2005).
Fruit Chan is referred to as an independent screenwriter, producer, and filmmaker. His style is denoted by reflecting the daily lives of Hong Kong people in a highly engaging style. He incorporates the activities, behaviours, and circumstances of the people in films that he creates. He is not afraid to incorporate the usual problems of people in his movies as many scriptwriters would be (Esther, 2009). His style engages his audience due to the multifaceted nature of his nationality and due to his cinematic pedigree. Fruit Chan has got most of his inspiration from Nagisa Oshima, a film director in Japan, in the 1960s. This was mostly because Nagisa was not afraid to address the problems of people in his movies without any fear.
Fruit Chan was born in Guangdong, which is in Mainland, in China. He began a career in the mainstream film industry where he began from the very bottom of the ladder. This was after the completion of his studies at Hong Kong Film and Cultural Centre. He began his career by sweeping sets, but after many years, he became an assistant director at the Golden Harvest studio. He gained much information from his disposure as he worked beside such directors like Kirk Wong and Jackie Chan who had much experience and expertise (Gan, 2005). This brought him to the point of producing his first film Finale in Blood in 1991 (Berry, 2005).
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Fruit Chan’s Independent Oeuvres
It is clear that Fruit Chan always transverses between the mainstream and the alternative one posing a clear view of independence in crisis (Berry, 2005). He had spent many years in the film industry before deciding to transit to the independent filmmaking industry. He voiced this as a launch for the revolution, and it was initiated in the production of the movie made in Hong Kong. In this, his main agenda was to establish the cultural space of Hong Kong. He also needed to define the identity of Hong Kong people. He depicts crisis, and the independent oeuvres are described as the crisis ridden. He engages the cultural and social cultures in films, which cannot be done in the mainstream movie making. Because the producer has control, he is, thus, able to stand in the opposition and to show the counter hegemony (Esther, 2009). Chan also reminds one of the romantic obligations to keep one direction despite the flaws. He attributes the independent filmmaking process as a variety of the personal expression (Berry, 2005).
The other mainstream movies typically focus on the privileges of people, but Chan shows the other side of life. He is quite clear that his conscious is evident as he goes independent. This is depicted by the fact that he speaks plainly. He expresses the fact that he made an option of going independent publicly. The industrial mode of production suggests that expensive and exotic productions should be made in films (Gan, 2005). The expensive technology is also incorporated into filmmaking. The industrial production also incorporates some intensive distinct effects in the movies and adheres to the comprehensive convection to ensure that the public is interested. The independent production, however, defies all this, and, indeed, it receives an audience from the likely-minded people. Fruit Chan has been named as a role model for many filmmakers mainly because of his boldness and stability in the independent oeuvres. The independent genre in Asia has been geared towards disturbing the creation of monoculture in the international cinematic culture (Berry, 2005). It also provides a broad innovation in the modes of distribution and production.
The issues addressed in the independent movies by Chan bring the recognition that is desired. Independence asserts three values, including authenticity, equality, and diversity. Authenticity is sighted as a main motivational factor behind some influential discourses of the minority groups. Authenticity can be defined as a truly contemporary value, especially in the independent filmmaking (Esther, 2009). This is clear because when Chan became an independent filmmaker, he began producing films devoted to issues that were biting the society (Berry, 2005). These included such issues as the transsexual issues and homosexuality.
Equality, on the other hand, means that filmmaking is in the hierarchical world where hierarchies in production exist. Chan uses the resources in the exceptionally creative way. He also shows an example using some alternative ways of gathering from international film groups and industries. Fruit Chan fights for the access and participatory equity within the commercial institution by exercising such rights. Lo Hoi Ying and Lam Wah-Chuens closely follow this style. The mainstream producers sometimes finance the independent productions (Berry, 2005).
Diversity in independent productions, which is the third defining quality, is brought about by the politics of access. A perfect example is shown in the works of Fruit Chan who is self-styled closely related to the western ideas of the contemporary auteur. Chan has provided diversity in Hong Kong Cinema (Gan, 2005). The independent filmmaking has increased diversity in that they have provided for the contestation of public opinions. Chan properly uses this concept of diversity as his movies do not propagandize the socialist ideologies, especially where the issues of the class struggle are concerned. However, the class issue is put on the foreground as he makes and constantly uses it in narrating of Hong Kong economic real times. His movies allow historians to make a study into the issues hidden and underlying (Berry, 2005). The study of these issues and the acting to improve the issues can altogether create new Hong Kong.
Made in Hong Kong
Made in Hong Kong is a movie by Fruit Chan that has been termed by many people as a rare movie in Hong Kong. This refers to the fact that it is one of thes kinds; and it is acclaimed critically all over the world. The movie won the awards earning Fruit Chan the honours of the best director, and it won the best picture awards in the 17th annual Hong Kong Film Awards. It also has won the best picture and has been nominated for the best screenplay and the best editing categories (Esther, 2009).
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Some would say it deserves every ounce of this but critics would arise, as it is always the case in any issue. The movie also has won the best director and the best original screenplay in the 35th annual Golden Horse Awards. It was nominated for the best picture, and Sam Lee, a main actor, has been nominated as the best actor. The movie has also won the awards in the 9th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards as the recommended film and the best-directed film (Berry, 2005). This was also the case in the 3rd annual Golden Bauhinia Awards as the best picture and director film (Gan, 2005).
Independence in the Movie
Fruit Chan’s independent style is shown by the fact that the movie was shot at a shoestring budget; and it used some non-famous and non-professional actors. It focuses on the urban alienation, and it looks in a stylish manner at what it means to be facing the unknown people when still remarkably young. Made in Hong Kong shows the experience of growing up in a low-cost governmental house, in the country of Hong Kong. It represents Fruit Chan’s life as he was growing up. The social cultural context laid down in the real sense represents freedom. Primarily, the movie represents the portrayal of people being highly marginalized in Hong Kong. There are also some acutely unglamorous spaces shown in the movie (Berry, 2005). The independent movies, as earlier described, bring fidelity as compared to the mainstream movies.
They are based on the everyday struggles and realities that face a common man. In the story line of the film, it is clear that the style used in movies and scenes as described below show the real scenes that would not be shown in the mainstream. Sam Lee, who won the best actor category in many awards, is depicted as a young man taking no orders. He is depicted spending his days aimlessly and lounging anywhere. The only person who follows him is Ah Lung plays the role of the mentally slow person (Berry, 2005). This is typical to mean that no rational person would follow Sam Lee as he is typically headed towards a fall (Gan, 2005).
He clearly represents an ordinary man seeking for an identity but being pushed back by the fact that he belongs to the low class society. It is a depiction of life of the common person who tries to look for the purpose and direction in a strange world. He does occasionally the work for Wing (Chan Sang) as a debt collector. In the debt collection process, he meets a young girl Ping (Neiky Yim) willing to trade herself to offset the mother’s debts. Ping’s mother is struggling to pay the debts that her husband had left when he left them. Sam Lee, however, obliges to take this offer although he later tried to sleep with her (Berry, 2005).
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Ping has a condition called the renal failure, and she is in the desperate need for someone to donate the kidney to her. However, in the waiting list of those wanting to help her are many that need this, so there is no much hope. Moon falls in love with Ping and comes to her aid where he offers to give his kidney to save her life. He also helps her to pay off her mother’s debts, and, for once, he is focused on something. He wishes that one day Ping would have her kidney. This is, however, limited because he does not have any class in the society. He is in the low class of the society. He has no promising future, and is viewed as a hopeless person unable to influence on the world. This is irrespective of the fact that his decisions may affect the world. Moon’s love for Ping makes her sell the mother’s television to offset Ping’s debt (Berry, 2005). Although the debt is offset, it strains the relationship that exists between him and his mother.
Sam Lee also tries to look for the purpose in life by a chance of the connection that he gets with a high school student called Susan. Susan committed suicide by jumping from the rooftop. The witness of this event is Sylvester, and he gains hold of the two suicide notes left by Susan. The first suicide note means Susan’s lover who happens to be a high school teacher. However, the teacher just reads the note and destroys it forgetting the whole story behind him. The other suicide note is intended to reach Susan’s family, but it ends up in the hands of Sam (Gan, 2005). Sam retains the letter instead of passing it to the girl’s family, and he is constantly haunted with the dreams concerning Susan. The loose ends present Sam with a chance to make the meaning of his life. He gets help form Ping and Sylvester to deliver the two letters to the people they are intended to reach. This is especially in the wake of the struggles to know what his life means (Berry, 2005). Sam’s actions in the film are often based on raw emotions, and this could probably to explain the radical element of his actions. They are also not determined by some righteousness or non-logical expectations but simply raw feelings (Gan, 2005). Such instances are clearly seen when his mother leaves him, and the first idea that strikes Moon’s mind is to shoot and kill his absent Dad. When he wants to borrow money from his mother, and she refuses, he figures his way around and steals the money from her. However, he is wise enough to withdraw the request to make the Mum think he does not need money. However, the film offers no place, where Moon faces judgement for his actions. The audience acts as the only witness of the actions that Moon undertakes (Berry, 2005).
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Independence is also shown by the depiction of the desperate lot in the society. These are the people languishing in poverty. Death pertinently knocks at the door of this family robbing their hope they had left. Diseases as well glance at them and terminal conditions. This is depicted as the life of the ordinary person in Hong Kong (Gan, 2005). Ping in the desperation was willing to prostitute to pay the debts that had faced her family. Fruit Chan clearly shows the social evils resulting from the lack that these families faced. These social evils include the prostitution where young girls offer their bodies as sexual objects to settle the bills faced by their families.
The film Made in Hong Kong gets its real power from the mixture of cinematic flourishes being quite strong in the movie (Berry, 2005). There are also some flash frames and slow motion scenes that mainly represent the flashbacks. They also represent the ideas that go through the mind of Moon. Sam Lee remains the greatest asset in this movie. He is not a hero although he shows some desires that seem misplaced to be the one. He tries to deal with a hand of fate that had dealt with him. He makes some flaws making the common person going through such identity crisis and searches for an identify (Gan, 2005). This is seen through his closest ally in the movie, Sylvester, having a terminal condition of retardation and Ping having the issues with her renal arteries. His closeness to these characters and desire to help makes the audience feeling their problems even more. This represents the true nature of what is happening (Berry, 2005).
The fusion of all elements used by Fruit Chan in the movie also works together to capture the audience’s attention. The independence is further expressed by the fact that it is not an intrusive film. It is also shown by the fact that it allows the audience to easily understand Moon’s world as he plays his role. The world of the main character is filled with the portions of conflicting emotions. There are also some ironic details that increase the colour of the film and add up to create the confusion that keeps the audience’s anticipation for more (Berry, 2005).
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The film has some scenes of the commentary on Hong Kong Handover, which is almost a mild political capture of the 1997 handover process. The life of Moon clearly shows the emotions that Hong Kong people harbour (Berry, 2005). This is shown especially by the depiction of Moon’s life at its dead end.
The end of the movie states that the youth represents the future of the country. The irony, however, lies in the ceiling that hangs above the heads of the youth in the film. Moon is limited to his background representing his nation in anything (Gan, 2005). The odds all seem to work against Moon making him to have the hard time to release his potential. The background, which she hails from, also limits Ping. Her background leaves her with the choice of becoming a prostitute to enhance the family’s economic position. She offers to do this to save her mother with paying the hustle of the impending debts left by the father. She is also faced by the ceiling of a fatal ailment that requires her kidney to be replaced. The obstacle of her financial disposition hinders her health status.
Furthermore, she needs some volunteer donors, and none of the people in the list matches her kidney. Death also robs their destinies from the youth in the film as it is shown by Susan, a high school student who commits suicide. This represents the lack of emotional support in the land, which can rob the destinies from young people. Suicide represents the unresolved issues, which ought to have been addressed long before they got to the level of stealing people’s lives. This is shown by the young people who represent the youth in the nation, but are faced by so many tribulations (Berry, 2005). The young people do not receive any help to pull them from the same. The characters have been pushed to the corners by the marginalisation latching to the position that they fear of losing what they are having. At the one point, Moon laments that he is so insignificant to the point that even the police officers do no notice him (Gan, 2005).
Fruit Chan represents the main themes of marginalisation and disconnection in the film as an independent filmmaker would have done . The unusually low budget film uses th resourceful and bold camerawork and the altered camera shots. He also uses different speeds to make his shots. Chan also uses the frenetic rhythms of Hong Kong life to create the effect of hopelessness existing as a theme in the film (Gan, 2005). This captures the life of nihilism that the protagonists encounter on a daily basis. Imagery is also used in the scene where Susan commits suicide overlooking at the cross in the church (Berry, 2005). This depicts the hopelessness that young people have, and even the church cannot help them to achieve their real meaning in life. The search of identity is depicted as the three young characters searching the grave of Susan in almost a hopeless state. They seem to be looking for the existence and validation in their lives. It is also so sad when Ping discovers that his father has another family. She discovers that the father left them to unite with his mistress (Gan, 2005).
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Little Cheung was set just a few blocks from the Portland Street, which is a heavily populated area. The area is also triad haunted, and it neighbours with Mongkok. It is a story of little Cheung, 9 year old Yiu Yuet-Ming who serves as a delivery boy in the father’s restaurant. The film is based on Cheung's family and their neighbourhood. The restaurant that the family owns serves in the category of the short order restaurants. The film is a reminder of the classic, neo-realistic dramas of the Cantonese cinemas. Its population is menacing the triad toughies and coffin makers who are wise and old (Berry, 2005). The film also has newspaper vendors and former Cantonese actors involved. Other categories include dishwashers and cops which are not so genuine. This is the main picture that is portrayed in the movie. Independence is well captured just like Made in Hollywood; Chan captures the real world struggling a lot in the society. Chan deals with common people in this movie to bring out the reality of pains that they go through as they are hustling for living. It also represents the concept of overpopulation, which is a menace to Little Cheung neighbourhood surrounded by the ordinary men (“Little Cheung“, 2000).
It is also clear that Cheung represents this much of people with the genuine affection as it represents his days of growing up in a small governmental house. All the actors used in the film are non-professional, and they all have a three dimensional life. Yiu Yuet-Ming, a 9 year old kid, is the most extraordinary character in the film as he gives the remarkably charismatic performance (Bingham, 2012). He is a world-wise narrator and the title character. He is also extremely passionate in his role and is slightly goofy. He confronts the complexities of an adult world, which include guilt, violence, and loss. He also faces the comic that comes with it and tragic consequences. Every day after school, he has to take on the adult roles of delivering food to funeral parlours and even to brothels (Berry, 2005). A child of his age should never be exposed to brothels and businesses that are carried on there, though fate leads him to such duties (Gan, 2005).
The movie is balanced between children and elderly characters. Little Cheung, a male character, unites with a young girl called Fan, whose mother is an illegal immigrant of the country of Hong Kong. The girl and her mother are dishwashers at the location where Cheung’s father owns a restaurant. Cheung befriends with a girl and offers her a partnership job in his delivery services where she manages to earn the extra income (Gan, 2005). The two run a strange business of delivery together with a local mafia group. Any commission that they receive they share secretly, and Cheung steals the cakes from the father’s restaurant. This triggers a brutal punishment from Dad, and he runs away from home (Bingham, 2012).
Cheung develops an exceptionally strong bond with his grandmother who gives him so much attention. She becomes his closest person, as the parents are always busy in the restaurant. They spend time together whenever he is not working and watch TV together. The grandmother also spends so much time telling him the stories of her past. Some of the stories that the grandmother narrates to Cheung indicate that she had an affair with Tang Wing Cheung being a Cantonese opera singer in the past. Cheung dedicates the beginning part of the movie to Tang Wing Cheung. This is a political movie just like all of Chan’s production, as the death of Tang Weng Cheung coincides with the return of Hong Kong to the Chinese control (Berry, 2005).
These two events play a highly significant role in the whole film, especially concerning the political aspect of the film. In the political aspect, Little Cheung celebrates the return of Hong Kong to the control of China. He does so with a flag as he waves the salutation to students being well lined up, and to the camera operators being symmetrically arranged. Little Cheung and Fan ride their bicycles as they shout some ululations denoting the achievement of Hong Kong. Later, many mainlanders are then deported back to their mainland as they have no HK residence permissions (Bingham, 2012). They were rounded up and put into the police cars before being deported due to the independence being acquired.
One devastating image in the film is Fan’s image with the fellow children of the deportees; they stare out of the windows at the police vehicles, which carry them. Sadness in their faces only describes the state of their hearts as they are pulled out of the land where they are used to receive their solace (Gan, 2005). Cheung is left by his business partner, which is a heavy knock at his head (Berry, 2005).
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One of the life lessons that Cheung learnt while being extremely young was that money and life are the two inseparable things. He says that money is the dream, the fantasy, and the future. This is especially because his grandmother who is his closest ally spends all her afternoons gambling to make money. She gambles at Mah Jong parlour for her living. The house girl of the grandmother who is Filipino by nature is also extremely religious and materialistic as she always claims for the overtime pay for working on Sundays (Gan, 2005). His namesake that was the grandmother’s acquaintance Cheung also performs the fund raising activities on TV. This further serves to show Cheung that materialism is extremely crucial (Berry, 2005). He always asks his clients to add the tip so that he can earn more from delivering them. He uses the asset of his look to acquire a better pay for himself (Gan, 2005). However, he squanders money that he gets to buy himself a toy pet, which is extremely expensive.
Cheung later decides to begin a search of his elder brother whose father disowned him due to being a gangster. This leads Cheung to much trouble with the father who gives him the severe punishment. One of the punishments is that he is told to strip from the waist downwards at the street where everyone passes. His father claims this punishment is for having tried to run away from home. Cheung is soaked by the rain, and he is tied at the base of the pole; he urinates on himself as he declaims the passion for rebellion (Gan, 2005). He does this by quoting a song by brother of Cheung as its lyrics defies the patriarchal authority being in the land (Berry, 2005). This is where it is clear that Cheung’s father is used to represent patriarchs in the land. His patriarchal rule is shown even as he sends Cheung’s elder brother away for having some defects in his character. It is notable that the character of the elder brother was defied because the parents were so busy at their restaurant to give him any attention (Gan, 2005). Chan uses this to blame some characteristics of the country’s elements of the governance. He uses this to portray what dictatorship makes , and how it robs people from their rights.
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Fruit Chan uses Little Cheung to represent the voice of the change in the society. He is a young fellow but his age does not limit him to represent the change contrary to the old folk. This is shown in the point where he risks his life going away from his family to locate his lost brother. It is also shown by the fact that he has embraced Fan as a friend despite her status as a non-resident member of the country (Berry, 2005).
Fruit Chan uses the long shots outside some large doorways using cameras. The shooting speed is also highly varied among the different scenes in the film. Little Chieung is also licensed independently and is being on the exceedingly small budget marking the style of the most influential films. His style is declared as independent due to the realism that he shows, especially in the location where Little Cheung is shot (Berry, 2005). He does not go to superb locations, but he shoots it in the localities that represent the ordinary setting in Hong Kong.
The realism of character is also shown as the film uses ordinary people in this production. It does not use superstars, but it uses a young boy and a young girl as the main characters to depict the innocence of children. It also used to show the danger that faces the ordinary children in Hong Kong including liaising with mafia groups (Gan, 2005). More than this, it exposes social evils such as the children being sent to brothels where they can be assaulted at the expense of doing business for their parents (David, 2001). The little children being deported are also used to depict the innocence of the children independently of their heritage. It is clear that they are tormented by this act as they had grown to love the lives, which they lived though their paltry salaries. Fruit Chan also uses the movie to show the loss of innocence among young children. It also shows a political theme by showing the enormous contrast existing between little Cheung and Fan (Berry, 2005). Cheung has an insular life while Fan merely exists (Gan, 2005). Chan uses this to show the dichotomy that exists between the Chinese immigrants from the mainland and Hong Kong residents. Fan faces a harsh life, and her eventual fate underscores the social and economic disparity. The disparity is mainly shown when the young children are pulled out of schools, while those children of Hong Kong are shown how to salute. There is also the realism of style as Chan uses a style use of ironic scenes in the film. These include the use of imagery (Berry, 2005).
It is pertinent to conclude that Fruit Chan has undoubtedly brought a tremendous impact on the independent film making industry. This has been felt in the world over especially with the release of Made in Hong Kong in 1997 that took the world by Storm. His other films, which involve Little Cheung, Hollywood Hong Kong, and Durian Durian bring out the fact that Fruit Chan is an independent filmmaker (Esther, 2004). This is well indicated by the fact that in his movie making he includes realism as a main theme. He brings to light the main problems in the world using the ordinary characters. He also shows the realism in locations where he shoots his movies, as he does it in the ordinary setting of ordinary Hong Kong person. He also brings out clearly the problems that people face in the society (Gan, 2005). More than that, he uses the cheap production that also serves to enhance the background of the characters in the movies (Berry, 2005). Little Cheung represents his personal life, which means that his movie represents the issues that he faces in his life. This common representation of life in its root depicts independence (Esther, 2004). Fruit Chan is a role model to many who wish to take on this route of independence as the doors are all wide open. They can now enjoy the core qualities of the independent production, which include realism and equity.