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HighNoon | 11th Nov 2008 | 最新消息News, 相關報導News&Interviews | (234 Reads)

words Kennis Lai

Heiward Mak and Anjo Leung talk about their new film in which seven high schoolers try to find meaning in Hong Kong’s concrete wilderness

PictureHigh Noon is the debut feature film of Heiward Mak, who celebrated her 24th birthday this summer. After her graduation with a degree in creative media, Mak devoted herself to independent short films but her talent was soon spotted by Eric Tsang Chi-wai who duly invited her to write the screenplay of Men Suddenly in Black 2 (2006). As part of the Winds of September trilogy produced by Tsang, High Noon revolves around changes in the friendships of seven high-school buddies as they navigate the tricky rapids of love, sex, study, drugs and family. bc chats with this young director and Anjo Leung, who plays Chip, one of the seven friends.

As your first feature, was High Noon much more difficult to make than your previous work?
Mak: I faced technical difficulties in filming High Noon – but budget was the major difference, although we still didn’t have a large budget. The team comprised professionals instead of my friends and schoolmates – and there was a lot of chemistry working with this team. Facing difficulty is an enjoyment for me. I enjoyed communicating with the cast and the production team as a director. It’s true that there were many people assisting me but I always had to express myself clearly so that they could help.

How long did the production last?
Mak: I finished the screenplay in October last year, and started the research in June. I went to several districts in Hong Kong to look for adolescents, talking and playing with them. I have gained a lot because I made a lot of friends from different age groups and we still stay in touch now. They shared a lot of their stories with me, so that I could shape the plot and characters. In August we started casting; we had auditions with more than 200 boys and finally found these seven main actors. They all come from different backgrounds: dancing school, film school, acting, and some were even found on the street.

It seems to me that it is a very masculine film.
Mak: Male characters dominate the film, which revolves around their friendship and the problems they face. The audience may question, ‘Is it really filmed by a girl?’ and even art director Cheung Siu Hong commented, ‘If this screenplay was not written by a guy, then [the author] must have a strong desire to be a guy.’ I like men so much and I am attracted to the friendship among guys – a kind of relationship that doesn’t need much verbal communication. I am a single child, and I always hung out with male friends when I was young. I realized there are many limitations to being a girl and now I actually want to be a guy. (Laughs) I have put my own personality and dilemmas in life into these seven characters. For example, Soy Sauce is a boy who always wants domination over the others but he is too cowardly to take the lead – this is exactly what I am; or like Jerk, he is an innocent and trouble-free person: he reflects my desire for simplicity. But after all, these seven characters are based on my research subjects.

Anjo, the seven boys in the film seem to be really good friends. Did you know them before you made the film?
Leung: I didn’t know them before. When we first met they thought I was not easy to make friends with since I am a very quiet person. But I actively called them and spent a lot of time with them. Hanging out with them brought back memories of secondary school, they have now all become my best friends. There is one scene in the washroom where the seven of us are arguing – that’s a scene of great tension, it requires intense emotion. Everyone was crying and losing control of their emotions. After the shooting we had to comfort one another, we all shared a cigarette, and the feeling was amazing. That’s when I had the strongest feeling for these buddies.

Have you two become good friends then?
Mak: We have known each other for some years but it wasn’t until the making of High Noon that we became good friends. Anjo is about the same age as me – unlike the other actors who are around 17 – and we share a lot in common. I even think he is just like my brother who gives me emotional support. I was dominant in the production, but personally and spiritually, I rely on him to a large extent. During the production, Anjo was not just an actor, he was a counsellor as well – he brought the emotion his buddies needed and comforted them afterwards. This is something that I couldn’t do because I am a girl and lack the bond of ‘male friendship’.

You include a lot of youth issues into the film, drug abuse, prostitution, sex?
Mak: Perhaps it happens to every new director. To me, filming is a way to speak out, and one of the ways to express my opinions to society. Picking seven characters to express myself was actually difficult and painful. I am an emotional person and when I write and film, I have to throw myself into each character. In the process of writing, I split into seven persons and was continuously shifting my identity. This is a huge mental burden. In the first half hour the film seems to be a light comedy, but when it gets toward the end, it becomes a tragedy as the human weaknesses are gradually exposed. These boys are looking for self-recognition and self-discovery, which are subject to their surroundings and people they meet – and youth is always full of regret and pain. It sounds tragic, doesn’t it? That’s why I created the character of Jerk whose hobby is to discover pearls in oysters. Pearls are formed by sand, something that is initially harmful to the oyster. The pearl is a metaphor of hope, which could make the ending more positive. Nevertheless, no matter how the story ends, I want to tell people that we always have choice in life. I am not teaching them black and white, as the world is not rational, but we always need reason to make choices, and I think choice is very important to youth, to me, and to people who are lost in Hong Kong.

You sound like a mature woman who has gone through a lot in life, but you are just 24.
Mak: (Laughs) As I said, I shaped the characters based on my research subjects, and my attitude was crucial for the research. As an adult, I don’t want to criticize them, but what I did was give them a hug and communicate with them. This is a dialogue not only between me and the youths, but also between the youths and adults who are watching this film. I am very certain about this point of view. I am 24, and I went through the age of 17 not very long ago. I recalled my memories and tried to blend them in – I understand the boys’ idleness and rebellion. This is why I could write these lines and portray their behavior. It is not a film about growth, but it’s about the pain and hollowness of youth.

Anjo, what do you think about Heiward? She is such a young director.
Leung: The directors I worked with before all had very conscious and clear minds. I am not saying that she is irrational but, where other directors tend to be more calculated and rational, Heiward is more emotionally oriented. She had a very close relationship with all the actors as well as the crew. Everyone treated her as their daughter and were willing to assist her. And I think that this is an alternative approach to those rational and conscious directors but it is equally successful. Emotions override everything, especially as a director. But, of course, sometimes she could be more strict and rational, so as to seem more professional. She is a very gentle girl – it’d be better if she could act tougher. (Laughs)

Heiward, you emphasize that the young people are playing a game designed by adults. Is that what you have been through in your life?
Mak: This is a question I asked myself all the time. When I was taking public exams in secondary school, I thought the education system was stupid. I was certain that I was going to be an artist, so why did I have to take this useless exam? Why couldn’t I choose my way of living? But all these institutions tell us that most young people are lost and that’s why adults set up a system for them to find out what they want. I never understood until I reached 20 – nor did I give an answer in the film, because the essence of this film is the mentality of youth. They keep on questioning without an answer while the audience, especially the adults, know it well, as they have all gone through youth. It’s a reflection.

Are you afraid of growing up?
Mak: I am a big child! (Laughs) Well, I don’t want to become one of those adults I am afraid of, but I am watching myself approaching that stage. Interestingly enough, you may notice the adults in the film also have a childish quality. We have to admit the fact that no one is a complete grown-up. Parents and teachers in the film do not act maturely at all, but they are supposed to be role models for the kids. That’s the irony.