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The additional public money in the latest government budget, allocated to promote Hong Kong-made Cantonese language films in southern China, is hoped to help smaller scale productions despite industry’s initial lukewarm

reaction.

But how much the extra HK$20 million funding will boost Hong Kong films in the region remains a question mark as these films still face mainland’s stringent censorship before they can be distributed across the border.

In his latest budget, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah highlighted the importance of locally produced Cantonese films,saying they are “a key component of the local culture”.

He said Cantonese was a common language shared in southern China, particularly Guangdong and Hong Kong, and the 100 million population in the region generated box office receipts of 4 billion yuan (HK$4.76 billion) in 2014.

He allocated an additional HK$20 million to the Film Development Fund to subsidise the distribution and promotion of Hong Kong-made Cantonese films screening in this region, so that each film has an allowance of HK$500,000, doubling the previous amount.

The Film Development Council said it will strengthen the promotion of Hong Kong-made Cantonese speaking films in Guangdong, and a thematic event will be staged during Filmart, taking place from March 14 to 17 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

“We have been having such a discussion for a long time but the scheme isn’t running at full speed yet,” said Wellington Fung, secretary-general for the council.

“To us, film is a very cultural oriented product. Audiences in northern China have very different tastes to those from the south,” he said. “There’s a high chance for us to make this work.”

However, the industry only had lukewarm reaction to Tsang’s proposal.

Tenky Tin Kai-man, a director of the Hong Kong Film Awards Association, said more government support for Hong Kong films were welcome, but whether this scheme will succeed depended on mainland distributors.

“This only applies to smaller films that are distributed in mainland [China] as imports,” said Tin.

He said established directors such as Pang Ho-cheung have been making co-productions with the mainland and this scheme did not target these films, which can be distributed as a mainland production under the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement.

“So it isn’t just about whether you want to bring the film to Guangdong. You need to make sure they pick your films too,” he said.

One major criteria is to pass the mainland’s censorship and smaller productions that carry a strong localist view, such as Ten Years, which depicts a bleak future of Hong Kong in 2025 under the growing influence of the Communist Party, will stand little chance.

“If that’s the case, it’s difficult to import this kind of film,” Tin said.