Monthly Highlights
Talking Art : Ma Fung-kwok  
Seasoned movie producer and distributor Ma Fung-kwok is a member of the board, performing arts and museum committees of the WKCDA. A former chairman of the HK Arts Development Council, Ma is also a member of the National People's Congress. He has a lot of insights to share when it comes to promoting HK’s cultural visions.

Q: What was your first encounter of arts and culture?

A: My grandmother took me to Cantonese opera at the theatre when I was three or four years old but of course I did not know what art was all about then. I was not properly introduced to arts and culture until my primary and secondary school years, when I started to go to concerts at the City Hall with my father or teachers. My father and elder brother often took me to the movies or art exhibitions as well. As the Social Secretary of the Student Union in the HK Polytechnic, I was actively involved in cultural activities like choir, photography, folk dance and oraganised joint-school concerts, drama festival and movie screenings etc.

Officiating at the Recognition Ceremony of the second Arts Ambassadors-in-School Scheme.
Q: Did these experiences help in your film production career in any way?

A: I joined the Sil-Metropole Organisation for co-production and distribution of films after graduation. Our vision was to produce quality artistic as well as realistic movies such as the award-winning “Queen of Temple Street”, “Ah Ying”, “Cageman”, “Beyond the Sunset” and “The Story of Qiuju”. Later, I founded Media Asia Group and the first production was “I Have a Date with Spring” which was an adaptation from a stage drama. I eventually started my political life in the Provisional Legislative Council after producing “Beast Cops”.

Q: Why did you choose to join the movie industry at the first place?

A: I believe film is a very influential medium and form of art. It is not only entertainment but also a means to convey positive messages which indirectly shapes culture and social values.

Q: Have you seen any impressive movies recently?

A: “A Simple Life” and “Echoes of the Rainbow” which describe the beauty of human nature are my favorites in recently years. Apart from freedom and human rights, I believe love and care between people and respect for the elderly should also be our society’s core values. I appreciate any movie genres as long as it carries positive messages, be it horror or action movies. Unfortunately I have been too busy with public duties in recent years and cannot afford much time to go to the cinemas.

Opening of the Jao Tsung-I Academy.
Q: What do you think are the missions of the WKCD?

A: WKCD should be more than a hinge for arts and culture. It should arouse more cultural happenings and drive the overall cultural ecology and atmosphere of HK or even South China. Although the WKCD project has been dragging on for a decade, we can still see its impact to the city. For example, property developers begin to allocate more resources on arts and cultural development which definitely thrives the local arts scene. It would be even better if the project were commissioned earlier.

Q: What are the challenges facing WKCD?

A: Cultural industry is very important to HK. The 80s to 90s were the golden days when the movie, music, TV and design sectors thrived with abundance of talents and market demand under little government intervention. Since 2000, nearby regions like Korea and Mainland China have been actively developing creative cultural industry and become our key competitors. Excluding individual project like WKCD, our government now invests about 1% of public funding to the cultural development and services, which is actually not bad compared to overseas countries. However, fragmented government cultural policy had rendered the results questionable. West Kowloon should move away from the government’s operation mode, to gain more flexibility and room, such as restrictions on land policy and mode of governance, to maneuver. This will be the major challenge to the project.

Launching Ceremony of the HK Baptist University’s Academy of Film.
Q: How should we equip ourselves to survive such keen competition?

A: First of all, we should encourage the people to participate in cultural activities so that they would learn to appreciate, respect and comment on others’ views – a process through which we could raise the quality of people and indirectly enrich our quality of life. Furthermore, we need to unite the social power among ourselves, enhance the city’s charisma so that we could be proud of the place we live. Last but not least, raise the standard and ability of local artists so as to enhance HK’s international image through cultural exchange. WKCD will multiply local cultural space in a very focused and advanced way. It is very important to provide quality performances so that we can sustain this advantage. The government should ride on the project to increase job opportunities and attract more tourists in order to bring in economic benefits.

Q: What kind of role should the government play in arts and cultural development?

A: The government’s role is to consolidate public consensus through open discussion followed by execution. Government and the community should be on the same side instead of going against each other, although well-intended criticism is always helpful. Presently, the cultural sector is more focused on their own interest instead of looking from the light of the society as a whole. It seems that the more vocal they are, the more resources they would get. We need public consensus to adjust this unhealthy trend.

Q: What is your next milestone in the arts and culture sector?

A: I don’t need to work for a living now so all my time and energy are devoted to meaningful public duties. I find there are still rooms to develop for mega sport events in HK, like the Rugby Sevens and Standard Chartered Marathon, and local athletes should deserve a better career and future too. That’s why I intended to run for the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication functional constituency in the coming Legislative Council election. Hopefully I would be given a chance to promote aggressively the positive energy of the art sector, the creative industry and the sports sector.