Exclusive Interviews with Directors Alan Mak and Felix Chong

Article by Kevin Young
Photo credit Xue Liang

Alan Mak and Felix Chong are two famous co-directors from Hong Kong. They screened their latest movie, Overheard 3 at the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival. The duo met working together as writers for their movie Infernal Affairs that surprisingly became a box office hit. It’s now acknowledged as Asia’s best notorious crime-drama film. This movie was recognized by Hollywood. Leonardo DiCaprio starred in the Oscar-winning film The Departed, the 2006 remake of Infernal Affiars. Mak and Chong sat down with us to talk about their success and third installment to their successful Overheard crime thriller series Overheard 3.

How does New York differ from Hong Kong?

Felix: New Yorkers are friendly. Hong Kong is crazy. New York cannot compare with Hong Kong. If you measure the frequency of how fast people walk in Hong Kong it’s like hearing a humming bird.

Can you talk about your big hit movie, Infernal Affairs?

Felix: A long time ago we first started co-writing infernal affairs and we started our own business. We started to direct and continue to co-write together. Box office wise Infernal Affairs was a big hit! It really was a big hit! But actually nowadays Hong Kong can’t compare with China’s box office. We made 50 million Hong Kong dollars in 2002 but today China makes over 300 million dollars per movie.

Regarding the film that is screening at the festival Overheard 3 how did the two of you come up with the story?
Felix: The story is about conflict that happens in Hong Kong. It’s a conflict between civilians fighting over the use of land. It’s actually a very big social issue today. If you Google what happened in Hong Kong on the 23rd then you will know. (700,000 Hong Kong citizens voted in an unofficial electoral reform poll)

So Overheard 3 is very relevant to what’s happening in Hong Kong?

Felix: It actually is. When we made this movie we never imagined that it would coincide with what happened last week. Our story is quite a violent story. The scenes in our story are very violent but they can’t compare to reality.

Why should people watch Overheard 3?

Felix: People should watch this film because it’s a conflict ordinary people. In movies, usually the conflict is between heroes and villains. In our movie there is no hero and there’s no absolute villain. So you can see how ordinary people kill each other or take each other’s life because of personal interests. It’s a commercial movie we want people to have fun after they watch it.

Felix Chong

What’s the main message that you want audiences to take away?

Felix: First the use of land. I think the biggest crime of capitalism is to make land private property. In America during the time of the Wild West if you had a gun, you use it to claim your land and own property. But I would like to ask a question: Did god agree? You sign an agreement of buying land or property but did god agree with it? Because you know land is one of earth’s limited resources. We cannot produce more land. So I think the solution to this conflict is that someone who has power should negotiate and distribute the land, to solve this question instead of ordinary civilians killing each other.

Alan: If you go into Hong Kong you see so many tiny buildings and then you see skyscrapers and luxury buildings. There are many luxury buildings without people. Basically Hong Kong’s people cannot afford to live in these buildings! So they developed the land for what? To build more luxury buildings for who?

I noticed that some of your actors are from mainland China. What was the casting protocol?

Alan: Yes some of them are from mainland China. But because we made a movie cooperating with China there is a political policy for local Hong Kong movies. You can only have a big release in China, when a movie is co-produced with a company from mainland China. Under that policy you have to hire a percentage of actors that have to come from China. There’s a problem we have in Hong Kong. Most of the movies we write are include Hong Kong characters. If you found some mainland Chinese actors or actresses they will be pretending they are Hong Kong people. It’s quite difficult for the Chinese actor or actress to act as a local Hong Kong person because the way people grow up in Hong Kong compared to China is just so different. As a writer and director I understand this. So the actors from china are playing characters from mainland Chinese people.

The cast in Overheard 3 includes some cast members from the prequel. Is there a reason you are having them play characters that are different from the type of roles they played in the past?

Alan: It’s just like in theater. You might have a starring role in one film but in another film you’re just playing a soldier. In the original Overheard movie we didn’t think about making a sequel and two of the main characters died. It had big success in China and they wanted us to do another movie. We wanted to keep the same cast but we had to do a different story because the characters died. It’s like a theater group.

Alan Mak


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