Don’t look down on the Youth

The directorial debut of Sunny Chan, Men on the Dragon is a time machine that takes the audience to another time and space to look at Hong Kong from a different perspective.
The sea view before a multimillion-dollar “luxury apartment” is just a gap between buildings; concert tickets are snatched up by scalpers and resold at premium prices. The middle-aged take their own philosophy as truth, yet they have put aside their dignity and need a smack in the face by the youth…

Sunny does not say he is the man on the dragon, yet he is indeed one of the men.

The Man on the Dragon

“At this moment in time, I think a film like this may inspire some Hong Kong people to look at our city from a different point of view.” Sunny majored in playwriting at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA), and his work includes the Love Undercover series. After almost 20 years in the industry, he has only received one best screenplay award nomination.

He joined the SLASH generation before many young people did — he has worked as a lecturer in playwriting at the HKAPA, love column writer and radio programme host, and published a few column essays.

After many twists and turns, he brought Men on the Dragon, the story of which he completed in 2004, to the silver screen. The film only reached HKD220,000 at the box office on its opening day. Now in the fifth week of its theatrical run, the film has grossed over HKD12 million at the box office. Sunny does not say he is the man on the dragon, yet he is indeed one of them.

We have great actors in Hong Kong

“There’s nothing extraordinary about a middle-aged man who’s lived a bit of a life. There’s a lot of wisdom that you might have lived in the past, and which you’ve put aside. Let the youth tell you about it one more time.” In the movie, he puts a young lady (Jennifer Yu) to be their coach and speaks out his message, “There’s only one thing you need to do on the boat, paddle the beat of the drum and move forward”.

“Middle-aged men like to snub “the little girls”, the youth.” He speaks in the persona of the young female coach in the film: “Every individual has their own mind. We shouldn’t look down on the youth.” Tony Wu is the youngest among the “men on the dragon” and the most vibrant character. “It’s exactly these middle-aged men who need to grow up.” Let the youth be a reminder for them not to cast their dignity away.

and also great actresses

It’s OK to be the second last

“It’s a win for them not to finish last in the race. Even as other boats take over them, the drummer tells the men not to rush it but to keep their own beat.” Sunny believes we should find our own beat.

“We need a drummer, that’s either for us or for Hong Kong. Hong Kong needs her own rhythm and we need our own world.” He just had the feeling that our drummer is playing a different beat and forces us to follow, “we don’t need this beat, and we don’t need that world. Most important of all, I believe, is that Hong Kong people should find our own world, our own beat and build our Hong Kong again.”

Bringing happiness to our family members could be one of our greatest achievements

He is happy though he is the man on the dragon. “Life is a long journey. Why are we always pushing our kids, pushing ourselves to strive for business excellence, to strive for the best academic results and to be the champion?”

He believes that we do not have to compare with others and we all walk our own way.
Shall we not?

We should all walk our own way

Striding ahead with Hong Kong Film

“Since this is a Hong Kong film, the story is unique as it can only take place in Hong Kong.” Details like “the sea view in a gap” and “the South Asians snatching up the concert tickets Hongkongers are trying to buy” are everyday glimpses that touch the audience.

We all miss the days with happiness and laughters

The Shatin Canoe Union Training Centre is the key setting in Men on the Dragon. Sunny quips that the dragon boat and Shatin come in one package: “It’s the most atmospheric place for training and distance race.” With the dragon boat as the subject of his first film, the director took care to feature the Shing Mun River in the film. “As I was filming the dragon boat and Shing Mun River, I wouldn’t leave out the buildings along the river. That’s the real Hong Kong! I love this mood.”

“Filmmakers around the world are making films with a distinctly local flavour. Why should Hong Kong filmmakers shy away from it? We should embrace these characteristics that we call our own.”

In his playwriting class, Sunny encourages his students to pursue uniqueness. “What makes a film local? I think a film that highlights the characteristics of a place is a local film. This city is where we grew up. Why should we distance ourselves from it, and not portray Hong Kong as it is?” He thinks that for instance, Indian films remain true to form even if there are certain elements the audience do not understand, and it is precisely this incomplete comprehension that highlights the distinctiveness of Indian films.

He urges us to cherish what belongs to us. “While this city has these unique characteristics and let’s put into the plots. When the foreign audiences watch it and ring the bell, knowing this is how Hong Kong is like. That would be very funny.”

translator . Nicole Wong Grace Chan
photographer .Paul Yeung
english editor . Andrew Guthrie

directed by Grace Chan
videography & edited by Trevor Tse
assistant cameraman .Kelvis Cheung

Original story from your dot to mine

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Hong Kong journalist

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陳零

陳零

Hong Kong journalist

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