Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Info on new HK independent film "The Merger" (我們停戰吧!)

Realizing that many people may not have heard too much about the HK film "The Merger" (我們停戰吧!), I decided to post up some info that I had gathered from various sources over the past few months.  Of course, this post won't be all-inclusive, since it will take me some time to dig up some of the older articles and interviews related to the movie that I had read several months ago.  I've actually been sharing tidbits of info here and there on AF and other sites, but it's a bit scattered so figured I would post the highlights here.  There's also an article that Skypost published last week that gives some pretty good insight into the movie, so I translated it and posted it below.

Here is some general info:

The cast for the movie consists of:  Frankie Lam, Patrick Tam, Rachel Lam, Kathy Yuen, Pinky Cheung, Meiki Wong, Samuel Kwok, Chan On Ying, Wilson Tsui Charles Ying, etc. (all former HKTV artists except Patrick and Pinky).  Also the director is Jimmy Luk (he directed HKTV’s To Be or Not To Be and Night Shift) – this is his first movie ever, as prior to this, he only directed TV series (for both TVB and HKTV).

Rachel Lam, who is also the lead actress, wrote the script.  Just a little background on Rachel – she actually wasn’t a scriptwriter prior to this – The Merger is her first script.  Prior to joining HKTV, she was a host for a few i-Cable shows and then went into acting, participating in a few HKTV series.  She decided to try her hand at scriptwriting, which she was interested in but didn’t really seriously pursue. After she wrote the script, she and Frankie happened to be filming Hidden Faces together for HKTV and hearing that he was interested in starting his own production company, she asked him if he would be willing to invest in her script. He was reluctant at first but after reading the script, he agreed. And since they were working for HKTV at the time, they decided to invite HKTV people to participate in the series (out of the main cast, the only 2 artists not affiliated with HKTV are Patrick Tam and Pinky Cheung). It was definitely a gamble from the beginning and the path from preparation to filming to distribution was difficult due to all the obstacles they encountered (more on this later).

Despite this movie being a small budget independent film with no big names in the cast (also no big name production team and no big name investors/backing), it was able to win 27 awards at various international film festivals, including major awards such as Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, etc.  Plus the movie has gotten quite a bit of critical acclaim and the feedback from audiences who have watched the movie (in pre-release) have been mostly positive.

Also, just some background on this movie’s ‘path’ to being released in HK.  Originally, when the movie was completed a few years back, the team (Rachel, Frankie) had approached various distributors in HK to discuss releasing it to general audiences in HK.  When distributors watched the film, they praised that it was a good movie, however they rejected the request to distribute in HK because 1) the cast had no ‘big names’ so most likely won’t attract audiences, and 2) the movie wasn’t “commercialized” enough (interpret that how you wish).  Since no one would give the movie the time of day in HK, the team decided to try entering it in various film festivals around the world (not a bad idea, since at least some people would see it).  Well, turns out that was the right move because the movie started sweeping up awards left and right – by the time it had swept up 15 awards, those HK distributors that had refused to release the film in HK theatres suddenly changed their tune.  They approached the production team and asked if they were still interested in distributing the movie in HK – well, now the film will be releasing in all HK theaters September 17th.  By the way, the movie continued to rack up awards at the film festivals and now, the total count is 27 awards…very impressive!

Lastly, about the theme song – it's called "You Still Have Me" (你還有我)...the lyrics were written by Rachel Lam and she also sings the song.  The musical arrangement was done by Kong Fai (actor and one of HKTV’s musical directors).  The theme song MV was officially released last week, which I’ve linked up to below.  Also, here’s a link to Rachel’s blog where she explains in detail her inspiration for the song as well as why she ended up singing it (sorry, but the post is in Chinese).

Below are a more few links.  I'll post up more stuff once I dig it up and have time to translate.  Meanwhile, if you're interested in watching various clips about the movie (including behind the scenes 'making of' clips, blessing ceremony, celebration dinners, and also fun clips from many of the cast's friends), check out Global Saga's Youtube page (Global Saga is the production company formed by Tony Wong, Rachel Lam, and Frankie Lam).  Here's the link:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFzBZ5bIRivXLpt6MpunxhQ

Official Trailer:

Themesong MV:


News Article (originally published September 10, 2015).

Frankie Lam and Rachel Lam’s new film:  a teacher/student romance that gives local HK feel

Source:  Skypost

Forbidden love is a pretty common subject matter for movies.  A taboo love relationship – such as that between a teacher and a student – can become especially poignant yet at the same time oddly alluring when presented on the big screen.  On hearing the movie’s Chinese title (我們停戰吧!), the first thought that comes to mind is that The Merger is about teachers and students warring with each other – however, after diving into the plot, the movie actually isn’t about that at all.  Rather, the movie at its core is about a teacher/student love relationship, a story written in a way that is unique in that it gives off a completely local HK feel.   There are also references to major events in HK history interspersed throughout the movie that are sure to trigger collective memories of the past for local audiences who are familiar with them.  This element makes the romantic relationship in the movie all the more poignant and realistic. 

Helmed by HKTV’s former production team, The Merger does not have any ‘big names’ among its cast – yet it was still able to succeed in sweeping up 27 awards in various international film festivals around the world, included amongst those Best Actor and Best Actress awards for its leads Frankie Lam, Patrick Tam, and Rachel Lam.  The movie starts in the 1990s era with the story of high school student Yip Heung Heung (Rachel Lam), who falls in love with her old-fashioned, ultra-conservative teacher Koo Wah Sung (Frankie Lam) – a relationship that ends with a tragic death.  Many years later, during a visit to the high school, Heung Heung’s daughter Yip Ka Ka (Kathy Yuen) accidentally discovers a long-buried secret – that her foster mother was somehow involved in the death of her biological mother’s lover. 

In the movie, Frankie Lam and Rachel Lam have a few daring bed scenes.  Asked about this, Rachel laughed and expressed that filming intimate scenes in a torridly hot old building was definitely NOT romantic – throughout filming of those scenes, they grumbled constantly about the heat.  “It was scorchingly hot during the filming of those scenes, but I was afraid to move too much because I was nearly half-naked and didn’t want to overexpose myself.  It wasn’t romantic at all!  It was embarrassing to film kissing scenes too, as I felt like laughing and it was hard to keep it in.”

Most of us originally thought this movie was simply a sad but beautiful love story spanning 2 decades in HK, but Rachel – who is the scriptwriter as well as executive producer – revealed that one intent of the movie is that the teacher/student love story will lead audiences to reflect upon their own lives and attitude toward HK in the era leading up to the 1997 handover as well as afterwards.  Revealing a little bit of the plot, Rachel explained:  “With her rebellious nature, Heung Heung sees that the handover is approaching and so wants to leave HK.  But then Teacher Koo talks to her constantly about the city’s rich history and it causes her attitude to slowly change – she eventually realizes that leaving won’t resolve the problems they face.  In the end, when disaster befalls HK, she eventually sacrifices herself.”  Rachel further explained that the story weaves back and forth between pre and post-handover HK, utilizing a ‘story within a story’ method and theater stage play style to bring back collective memories of HK’s and China’s histories. 

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