Andrew Lau Wai-Keung Wraps' Vision Beijing Project
text by Amor, photos by Zhou Shijie
After 14 months, the Vision Beijing Project has come to a near-perfect end with a five-minute short film of Beijing by Hong Kong director Andrew Lau Wai-Keung. Focusing on the cuisines of Beijing, Lau turned to celebrated actors and singers from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, who had cooperated with him in his previous works, to serve as “ambassadors” dedicated to introducing Beijing cuisine to the world.
Lau is the fifth and final director to participate in Vision Beijing, which began in August 2006. The previous four world-famed directors included Giuseppe Tornatore, Italy; Majid Majidi, Iran; Partrice Leconte, France; and Daryl Goodrich, England. They were tasked to make five-minute films visualizing the transformation of Beijing into a modern humanistic metropolis as it prepares to host the 2008 Olympic Games.
Sharing a passion and love for the city, the directors used various approaches in capturing images of the new Beijing. In his film, Tornatore told a touching story about a middle-school teacher reuniting with her students 30 years after their graduation; Majidi focused on children, a salient feature of his works. For Lau’s part, the theme of his short film is about fine foods in the city. Traditional cuisines such as those found in places like Donglaishun and Fangshan are treated along with modern options in the increasingly internationalized capital.
Having opened hot-pot restaurants in Hong Kong himself, Lau said that he was very happy to address this theme. “I enjoy fine food so much, no matter whether they're expensive or not. He said his basic goal in shooting this film was to present Beijing cuisine in a nice way “so that every audience wants to come to Beijing and have a bite after watching it.”
Lau recalled his first visit to Beijing in 1991: “I was really impressed by how big and majestic the city is, which is how a capital city should be. I could sense its long history and deep culture, which made me so proud to be Chinese.” He has since come to the city often, either for film promotions or for travelling. “Iíve noticed so much change has taken place here. It’s like every time I come, the city is not the same.” He said Beijing is changing rapidly and becoming increasingly modern. Seeing all the construction in the capital, he expressed hope that developers would strive to retain “more of the traditional and historical things.”
This is not the first time Lau has captured images of Beijing with his cameras. “I like the view of Beijing that combines the traditional and modern, so I've included the city in many of my films.” He said his most unforgettable experience was shooting the Gate of Meridian (Wumen) in the Imperial Palace for The Duel (Juezhan zijin zhidian, 2000). “I was bit nervous at the scene as I’d never filmed something so ancient and grand, and we had so little time due to the protection to the site. However, it turned out to be one of the best scenes of my films,” Lau said.
Lau still hasn’t had a chance to view the works of his fellow Vision Beijing directors, but he said, “I’m really looking forward to it.” He said they are some of the world’s top directors, each with a style of his own. “I feel honoured to participate in the same project with them.” He said he agreed to join this “meaningful” event without hesitation. “Every Chinese takes pride in Beijing hosting the 2008 Olympic Games. I’m so happy that I have this opportunity to contribute.”
The “message” in his film, Lau said, is that Chinese cuisine has had a long and well-developed history, and everyone should come and try it. “Food may seem such a simple and normal thing, but it is very important to all of us. Nothing beats a good meal.” Lau believes that in Chinese cuisine, anything can be made into delicious food. “With fresh ingredients and devoted chefs, you will be amazed by how nice food will be here in China.”
The film was an education for Lau: he said he was introduced to many foods he had never tasted before. “It’s such a pity that I didn’t have the time to taste all of them. I must come back!”
The film has a “sparkling” all-star cast that included Leung Chiu Wai, Jay Chou, Edison Chan and Shu Qi. Lau said their smooth cooperation with him in previous movies encouraged them to participate in the film, but the actors also wanted a chance to make a contribution to the Beijing Games. “When I told them about this project, they all agreed at once, even though each has only one or two shots in the film.”
“It is every Chinese’s pride to host the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, which is also the best way to promote China and the city to the world.” Lau said he is confident that the 2008 Games will be successful, “if we work together.” There is no “Hong Kong” or “Chinese mainland” to Lau. “We’re all Chinese.” Lau said he wanted to make the mainland a major shooting site for his future movies, “especially after this nice experience of working for Vision Beijing.”
Vision Beijing is a project of the Beijing Foreign Cultural Exchanges Association and the Information Office of the Beijing Municipal Government. It was organized by the Beijing Foreign Cultural Exchanges Center and Beijing This Month Publications, with assistance from the Sun & Sea Culture Communication Company Limited. Beijing This Month has provided exclusive coverage of this first-of-a-kind event in Beijing. You can find more about the event and the other four directors in previous issues of the magazine or online at www.btmbeijing.com.