HK director reflects city's souring mood with new film

HK director reflects city's souring mood with new film
This undated handout photo received from the Far East Film Festival on April 29, 2014 shows the cast of Hong Kong director Fruit Chan's "The Midnight After".

UDINE, Italy - The director of a post-apocalyptic thriller that has taken Hong Kong's box office by storm says the film has struck a chord in a city grappling with its identity under Chinese rule.

"People are getting very angry about the government. This film is their voice," said Fruit Chan, whose "The Midnight After" has so far collected more than HK$20 million (US$2.6 million) at the local box office, making back more than four times its budget.

The horror-comedy is a return to form for one of Hong Kong's few commercially successful independent directors, boasting typical Chan ingredients of ultra-violence and distinctly local, black humour.

Adapted from an online novel, "The Midnight After" places a group of people in a mini-bus late at night. When the bus emerges from Hong Kong's Lion Rock Tunnel, they find the streets deserted after an unexplained calamity hits the city.

The film is rich with allusions to current events in Hong Kong, and is one of a handful of recent movies tapping into a sense of collective confusion and rising anger over where the territory is headed.

"After Hong Kong joined China, many things have changed in our town," said Chan.

"I follow very closely what is happening, and that's why I included in my film elements that certainly have to do with politics," said the director, speaking to AFP at the 16th Far East Film Festival in the northern Italian city of Udine.

Under an agreement between Britain and China before Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, the "One Country, Two Systems" maxim would see the territory retain its semi-autonomous status and enshrine civil liberties not guaranteed on the mainland.

The mood has soured since 1997. Protest marches are a frequent sight amid perceived erosions to Hong Kong's status, a sense of declining press freedom and fears that Beijing will row back on promises that the city - whose current chief executive is appointed by a pro-Beijing committee - will see a transition to universal suffrage by 2017.

This has been coupled with a rising tide of anti-mainland Chinese sentiment as Hong Kong experiences an influx of about 40 million visitors from across the border every year, pressuring services and space in a territory of seven million.

Chan references both issues in "The Midnight After", which makes some subtle jibes at the leadership of unpopular Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and touches on a perceived marginalisation of Hongkongers within their own city, where a soaring property market is out of reach for many.

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