'Bruce' Leung Siu-Lung was presented with the first Fantasia Kung-Fu Star Award Saturday night by onr of the Festival's Directors of Asian Programming, King-Wei Chu, during the Canadian Premiere of Leung's latest film Gallants.
Gallants, a cinematic love letter to Hong Kong's Kung-Fu flicks of the 70's and the stars of those films, just won the Audience Award at the New York Asian Film Festival and the reception in Montreal was no less enthusiastic. The line-up to get into the film already stretched a block while the audience was getting seated for the Greek Zombie film Evil: In the Time of Heroes which started two hours before Gallants. The packed crowd gave Gallants and its star a standing ovation at the conclusion of the film.
Started in 1996, the Fantasia Film Festival is one of North America;s biggest and most successful genre showcases. Last year they sold over 90, 000 tickets. Fantasia has a history of being on the cutting edge of genre films, being early champions of Japanese Horror like Ringu, Korean Cinema like The Host and Thai Cinema like Tony Jaa's Ong Bak. Eli Roth, who successfully launched Cabin Fever at Fantasia in 2003, considers the Festival important enough that he personally brought a print of Inglorious Basterds to Montreal last year to close the 2009 Festival.
The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office agrees with Eli Roth. They sponsored the screening of Gallants and paid to bring to Montreal star 'Bruce' Leung Siu-Lung and the film's director and co-writer Clement Sze-Kit Cheng. They were probably less than thrilled when Leung joked while introducing the film that paying to bring him to Montreal was the first smart thing that the Chinese Government had done since taking over Hong Kong in 1997. The quip was especially ironic since Leung was blackballed by the Hong Kong film industry in 1988 after making a good-will trip to mainland China hoping to convince the Chinese government to lift a ban on his films. Leung only made a film comeback in 2004 when Stephen Chow brought Leung out of exile to play the villain in Kung-Fu Hustle.
After the screening, director Clement Cheng revealed that he had been shopping the script for ten years until Hong Kong star Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs) put up the entire budget - approximately 8 Million Canadian. The film was shot in 18 days and opened in Hong Kong last month. According to Cheng the film has done well at the box office in Hong Kong and is currently in the top ten for films released in Hong Kong this year.