Local director gets nod for HK award

A Fantastic Ghost Wedding by Meng Ong stars Sandra Ng, Mark Lee and Keane Chen.

Meng Ong has been nominated for the New Talent Award for A Fantastic Ghost Wedding at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival Home-grown director Meng Ong's new feature, A Fantastic Ghost Wedding, has landed him a nomination for the New Talent Award at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival.

"I am so happy to be nominated, especially considering that I'm in the same category with directors who made some really well-known films," he tells Life! cheerily over the telephone yesterday."

One film especially made a huge impact at the Venice Film Festival this year, so I feel honoured," he adds, referring to nominated movie Sivas by Turkish director Kaan Mujdeci, a drama about a boy and a fighter dog that won the Special Jury Prize in Venice.

Other than Ong and Mujdeci, the other four nominees up for the same award in Hong Kong are Indian director Chaitanya Tamhane for Courts, Indonesia's Lucky Kuswandi for In The Absence Of The Sun, Taiwanese Chiang Hsiu-chiung for The Furthest End Awaits, and South Korean Lee Su Jin for Han Gong Ju.

Last year, Singapore's Anthony Chen of Ilo Ilo fame had shared the prize with Turkish director Alphan Eseli for The Long Way Home. Is Ong confident about bringing the award home and making it a double win for Singapore? He says with a laugh: "I certainly hope so. I'm keeping my fingers crossed." The winner will be announced at the end of the 19-day festival, which kicks off tomorrow and runs until Nov 11.

A Fantastic Ghost Wedding, which will be released in cinemas here on Nov 20 and features an international cast, follows the bizarre story of how a grieving mother (Hong Kong actress Sandra Ng) hires a famous medium boy and his father (local actor Mark Lee), to help find a ghost bride for her deceased son (Taiwanese Wang Po-chieh).Despite the supernatural elements, the director, who declines to give his age, says the $1.9-million film is "in no way scary", but is instead about emotions and how different people deal with death.

On working with Ng, Ong says she is as intimidating as one would expect of an A-lister. "She comes across as very tough and sometimes even when she sits down, she puts her legs on the table, so she has this aura of someone not to be messed with. But she's also an utter professional and it was a pleasure working with her," he says. "It helped that Mark Lee was taking such good care of her.

Being both comedians, they got along very well and, in between shoots, I always hear them laughing in the corner." Giving him more pressure was in fact not Ng, but her celebrated film-maker partner Peter Chan (Comrades, Almost A Love Story, 1996), who visited the set over two days during the 26-day shoot here in June last year.

He says with a laugh: "Peter Chan would just quietly observe from the side and I was so nervous about whether I was doing the right thing. But he was very supportive and friendly. "When I told him that I was a huge fan, Sandra said that that was embarrassing. I asked her, 'Embarrassing for who? Peter or me?'"

This is Ong's second feature film following his award-winning debut Miss Wonton (2001), about a young Chinese immigrant in New York. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Prix Fipresci International Critics Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland in 2001.


A Fantastic Ghost Wedding opens in cinemas on Nov 20.

This article was first published on October 24, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.