The ongoing debate in Hong Kong about the “yellow economic circle” has extended to the entertainment sector after stand-up comedian Dayo Wong produced a movie with no mainland partnerships to target the local audience.
The “yellow economic circle” is an informal list of recommendations for goods, services and restaurants favored by pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong.
The Grand Grandmaster, a movie produced, directed and acted in by Wong, is set to be screened from January 23 and targets viewers during the Chinese New Year holidays.
However, a commentator criticized Wong, saying his movie should not be a part of the “yellow economic circle” as it was filmed in nearby Shenzhen, China. Wong was also slammed for underpaying his staff and not saying a word to support the anti-extradition protesters.
On Monday, in a Facebook video, Wong admitted he had underpaid his staff due to a lack of resources. He said he sold an apartment to make the movie and did not receive any funding from third parties as he did not want to be censored.
He said he wanted to make a movie purely for Hong Kong people. He added that he had no choice but to shoot the movie in Shenzhen due to cost concerns.
A lot of Hong Kong-based cultural writers have called on Hong Kong people to support Wong as a way to strengthen the “yellow economic circle.”
One said Wong was definitely a “deep yellow” person as he had shown his liberal views in his performances over the past few decades. Another said there was nothing wrong with watching this filmed-in-Shenzhen movie as long as it was tailor-made for Hong Kong audiences.
A columnist wrote in Stand News that it was pointless to figure out the political views of Wong, who had criticized the Chinese Communist Party, as well as a lot of other things.
She said it was not a must to watch Wong’s movie, but she would definitely suggest boycotting movies directed by Hong Kong’s Wong Jing, whose action-comedy movie Eat The Fat Dragon was also set to debut on January 23.
Others said they would show support for Dayo Wong by buying tickets but avoid spending in the cinemas operated by the so-called “blue-ribbon” businessmen who are pro-Beijing or pro-establishment.
Wong has been a famous artist in Hong Kong since he performed his first stand-up comedy show in 1990. While he was rising as a popular stand-up comedian and a TV actor in the past three decades, he tried to diversify to the movie industry but faced a lot of set-backs.
He directed a movie called Pink Bomb in 1993 and another called Fighting To Survive in 2002, but they performed poorly at the box office as they were too “philosophical.” He also mocked himself as “box office poison.”
Last year, he acted in Agent Mr Chan, a commercial movie jointly produced by a group of Hong Kong and mainland companies. The film generated more than HK$40 million (about US$5 million) in revenue, helping Wong get rid of his “box office poison” label. However, the movie was criticized by his fans for lacking Wong’s style.
Last July, Wong did his last stand-up comedy show and decided not to perform on stage anymore. He then focused of producing his own movie. In the movie, Wong is the successor of a famous Chinese kung fu brand, but he has not inherited the skills. He cheats people for money until he is exposed.
The theme is not suitable for the mainland market, which sees “fake kung fu master” as a political taboo. Xu Xiaodong, a Chinese mixed martial artist nicknamed “Mad Dog,” had beaten up a lot of tai chi and wing chun masters on stages over the past few years and said they had cheated the public and their students.
However, Xu was ordered by the Chinese courts last May to pay 400,000 yuan ($58,000) to a tai chi grandmaster for having insulted him on social media. Due to the court order, his social credit rating was lowered to “D,” a level that made him unqualified to rent his own property, stay in certain hotels and travel on high speed rail.
Besides, movies about kung fu masters, such as Yip Man 4, performed by Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen, are widely seen as a tool to promote nationalism in China.