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Director Herman Yau
Director Herman Yau may be best known for the cult classic “The Untold Story”—whose plot involves a family that is killed and made into barbecue buns—but he has tackled every genre from comedy to socially conscious feature films. The prolific director and producer talks to June Ng about his latest work, “True Women For Sale,” the story of a local prostitute and a mainland woman who marries a Hongkonger to obtain citizenship.

By June Ng | Dec 11, 2008

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  • Director Herman Yau

I can’t really explain why I wanted to make this movie. It’s more like an impulse, like a sudden craving for a steak.

New immigrants are those who have successfully immigrated to Hong Kong and have the right to stay. But we’re still unfair to them. We tend to think they live off welfare, something we never think about of people from foreign countries. That’s discrimination.

Prostitution should be decriminalized better if it’s not outright legalized. Most people just see prostitutes as cheap and greedy for money. But that’s a prejudice.

When the same prejudice occurs in the majority of people’s minds, it is no longer prejudice, but the dominating opinion.

As a city, we’ve put too much emphasis on developing old districts. That’s because everything is driven by economics. It’s not about preserving the history and culture. It’s about making money; people can be sacrificed.

Development projects use a lot of names to repackage themselves—Cyberport is a great example of a way to disguise Bel-Air. And the West Kowloon Cultural District is likely to be another one.

My first movie was called “No Regrets.” I studied film at the Department of Communication and started making independent films. That’s how I got into the business. At my age now, I have to stop and think if I have any regrets.

When I was young, I played in a heavy metal band. I also watched a lot of arthouse movies. The atmosphere back then was different and there were more clubs showing those kinds of movies.

Society has changed. Since the 70s everything has been based on spending—your civic duty is to spend.

I’m not against making money. I want to make a big-budget movie as well. But the bigger the movie, the more difficult it is to make it a reality. And the more it risks turning into a cliché.

A small-budget movie is like a small car—it’s always easier to start.

“The Untold Story” was my first blockbuster—and it totally took me by surprise. It’s given me a more concrete idea of how it feels to be the director of a blockbuster. Before, it was only something I could dream about.

I’ve made more than 80 movies—a lot of them are crap. Ask people on the street and they’ll tell you the same. But I enjoyed the process, even when a movie was doomed—even the worst football player can still enjoy the game.

I don’t believe that taking more time will lead to a better product. I like to finish things quickly if I can. I don’t think the Herman Yau of next year will perform better than the existing one, so there’s no point in waiting.

Some directors are egocentric. If you don’t understand what they’re doing, it’s your problem. I want to stay close to people and make movies that people understand.

What’s wrong with a recession? The problem is when we think the economy would only expand. It’s almost like thinking man would no longer get sick.

No one can escape from the economic crisis—once you’re part of the MPF, you’re forced to play the game.

Dream a dream, live a life. I used to have that on my website but I skip that page now.

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