In Where the Wind Blows, Hong Kong’s Oscar entry directed by Philip Yung, Young Lui Lok became a policeman to uphold justice. But the rampant corruption within the police force made it impossible for him to remain independent. He decides to make a name for himself within the police force by controlling organized crime. Nam Kong looks [like a] gentleman, but operates with a dagger under his cloak. He is socially active among the police force as well as the social circles, in fact laying the groundwork for the empire of corruption he builds with Lui Lok.
Nam Kong and Lui Lok, the brains and the brawn working in perfect unison, respectively become Chief Detective Chinese of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon / New Territories in 1962. They lord over organized crime, and lead tens of thousands of policemen. Nam Kong has long seen through Lui Lok’s cynicism and naiveté, and has been plotting a hostile takeover of power. Lui Lok discovers that everything is not as he had imagined, he vows to forcibly regain controlling leadership from Nam Kong. As the two forces begin their epic power struggle, who will rise and who will fall?
has been involved in film and televisión production since 1988, becoming a film producer soon after. In 2009, he wrote and directed his first highly acclaimed modestly budgeted feature film Glamorous Youth. The film was invited to be screened at numerous film festivals, including the Hong Kong International Film Festival, Filmest Munchen in Munich, AsiaticaFilmMediale in Rome and the Chinese Young Generation Film Forum in Beijing. It also won Film of Merit at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society awards, and Yung was nominated as Best New Director at the Hong Kong Film Awards. In 2011, Yung directed a documentary on the demolition of Lower Ngau Tau Kok for the Hong Kong Housing Authority, which won an Honors Aard in the international Galaxy Awards. In the same year, Port of Call won the Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum’s HAF Award (Hong Kong Project). His current feature Where the Wind Blows is a period crime thriller about corrupt cops in 1960s Hong Kong. Originally entitled Theory Of Ambitions.
The Following is an interview with Philip Yung about making of Where the Wind Blows:
Cinema Without Borders: Is “Where the Wind Blows” based on a real story and are characters based on real people?
Philip Yung: It is true that many people know their history, but there are many different versions because actually not much has been officially recorded. So these are just my versions of the characters of these people. I used the two legendary figures as they are portrayed in legends to develop their characters. There was a lot of creativity.
CWB: How challenging was it to recreate Hong Kong in different time periods.
PY: The most difficult part for the art department was the recreation of the texture and the styles of the time because those things do not exist in Hong Kong anymore. We had to go to many different cities to find old buildings to reconstruct and to alter because you cannot rebuild everything all the time. So the challenge was balancing the amount that you can change or wish to change, the details you add and whatever you needed to recreate that era convincingly, also the costumes and the styles cinematography, and how to tie everything together in one unified style.
CWB: Another big challenge is moving back and forth in time, without confusing the audiences, how did you overcome this challenge?
PY: I use a lot of flashbacks to show the mental state of the characters and this is my habit instead of a challenge. I find it hard to accommodate myself without using flashbacks. Moving back and forth in time, without confusing the audiences, is an editing issue instead of script issue. I usually make my decisions based on the footage during editing. I believe the audience will follow the “intention” and “emotional change” of characters rather than the events. Instead of giving the audience a map, letting them find the “Entry” and “Exit” of the story on their own is more meaningful.
CWB: How did you go about casting “Where the Wind Blows” and how did you work with actors?
PY: Some of the actors are very well-known in Hong Kong, everybody wants to work with them, such as Tony Leung, Aaron Kwok and Michael Hui because they are all very iconic to Hong Kong. They have a bearing that is very characteristic of Hong Kong. I had also worked with the other cast members before.
Usually, my assistant director would scout for suitable actors. I would meet and talk with them instead of “casting”. I trust my instinct. Testing their acting is just to see their basic skills. I think that their personality and their bearing are more important. I love to observe and adjust the scripts to the cast.
Tony Leung had shown his interest in working with me while we were in Shanghai, after the first time we met. He wanted to know how I would film “Once Upon A Time In Hong Kong”. The role made him recall many of his own memories. Two months later, we became close friends and he was able to trust me. So he was ready to join this project. He actually gave up a long planned vacation for this film. Nam Kong’s character is based on Tony, his attitude towards love, some of his philosophy of life and even something he had said. I used those for Nam Kong’s dialogue. So the role is somewhat a reflection of Tony Leung. Certainly I know who Tony Leung is, but it’s the first time I got to know him in person. To develop the character through the actor’s own personality is a great way to work together for the first time.
CWB: Please tell us about the visual style of “Where the Wind Blows”.
PY: There are a lot of “film-fans” who have seen the film because I referenced multiple movies and they are fans of these movies. Some of the scenes are inspired by certain movies. A lot of styles are influenced by the Cantonese Hong Kong musicals of the 1950s & 1960s. And then there are certain specific references, such as in one scene when it is raining, the shirt that the kid (like a young Robert De Niro) is wearing is based on the one in “Once Upon a Time in America”.
CWB: How do you feel about being chosen to represent Hong Kong again at the Oscars?
PY: This is my second time to represent Hong Kong at the Oscars for Best International Feature. I am still very much honored. I don’t think that I am an “international” director yet. In fact, I am still working hard on local films. I hope one day I can grow with the development of Hong Kong movies, to initiate discussion and debate about universal values in the world through each Hong Kong movie.