FROM THE QUEEN TO 

THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE

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(Adapted from a book published by Step Forward Multimedia Co Ltd)

"From the Queen to the Chief Executive" was the official selection of the 51st Berlin International Film Festival and it was also the opening film of the Panorama.

Synopsis

Beginning in 1997 with television footage of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region being sworn into office, we next see an appeal being made to the Chief Executive. The story then swiftly backtracks to 1985. We follow three people whose lives will intersect 12 years later: Yue-ling, Mr. Leung, and Ming. Yue-ling is a teenage girl suffering from loneliness and abuse; Mr. Leung is helping factory workers protest unfair working conditions, and Ming is a teenage boy caught up in a horrific crime. Fast-forward to early 1997, and we discover that Yue-ling has grown into a young woman fascinated by the prose of a young man who turns out to be a prisoner. That prisoner is Ming. He has been "detained at Her Majesty's pleasure," held for years without a sentence under a provision of Colonial rule that, it is explained, was meant to give youthful offenders a bit of a break, a chance to correct themselves. Instead, it has been used to keep a number of young men behind bars for an indefinite period, never knowing when or if they can expect to be released. Yue-ling is touched by Ming's story, and seeks out the help of Mr. Leung, now a Councillor whose term of office will end effective with the handover.

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THREE MONTHS AFTER THE PRODUCTION OF

¡§FROM THE QUEEN TO THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE¡¨

(27 January 2001)

Written by Herman Yau

English translation by Vicky Yau

It has been years that I have been hoping to accomplish something that would not only be self-realization and at the same time well received by the others.  Amongst all the work I have done, I have spent most of my time on movie making.  Things never turn out as wished.  ¡§The Untold Story¡¨ was criticized as ¡§speculating recklessly¡¨, regrettably by one of my respected film critics.  ¡§Ebola Syndrome¡¨ is another example.  It was rated 1 point while the full score is 33.  Despite of all these negative comments, at least I am glad to say that I have done something to please myself.

 

Other than movie making, publishing industry is also something I fancy.  I did participate in magazine publishing before but for various reasons while finance was always one of the many, the venture was aborted.  However, I have never given up.  Shortly before the handover of Hong Kong to China, coupled with some friends, I got into the publishing industry again and started the ¡§Step Forward Multimedia Co Ltd¡¨ though I know at the very beginning it would not feed me in any case.  One of the objectives of Step Forward is to make the impossible possible.  Good publications that might not have been given a chance for release would be able to reach its readers.

 

During the very first winter after the handover, I had a chance to read through the first draft of ¡§From the Queen to the Chief Executive¡¨ which is based on true story.  The incidents narrated seemed to be very familiar that I have come across in the news.  The story picked my nerve and agitated my sense of injustice.  It also came to my mind if I could make it into movie.  We always claim that we are civilized human beings living in a society under rule of law.  But we still see prisoners being locked up endlessly simply due to the fact that the authority refused to grant a definite sentence to them.  The ¡§Detained at Her Majesty¡¦s Pleasure¡¨ which was supposed to be a lenient punishment turned out to be more of a damage.  The spirit of this verdict is to grant mercy to juvenile criminals to allow them a chance to make up for what they have done in view of their yet developed thought of mind.  Moreover, the court does not treat juvenile criminals as adult ones.  The judge will inflict a more lenient punishment and will normally leave pronouncement of the sentence to non-judiciary individual or institute.  The absurdity is that ¡§Detained at Her Majesty¡¦s Pleasure¡¨ turned out to be an endless imprisonment that is a much more severe punishment than that imposed on adult criminals, making it a life time torture.  The British withdrew its rule from Hong Kong leaving behind 17 prisoners who have been inflicted ¡§Detained at Her Majesty¡¦s Pleasure¡¨ at the time of colonial rule after the signing of the Memoranda of Article by the British and Chinese governments.  Upon the handover, our Chief Executive who only dares to work conservatively and always claims to have full confidence in Hong Kong does not seem to bother to take up the mess left behind under the British rule.

 

It is always my wish to film topics on the weak and the inferior.  They are often being neglected intentionally or otherwise.  Be it humanity, basic human rights or the courage to face problem, we should acknowledge their presence.  Local filmmakers rarely touch on the topic of human rights sincerely, not to say that of the criminals.  Though Hong Kong was handed over to Mainland China already, it is hard for me to admit that we are living under suppression.  As long as we are enjoying the fruit of civilization and freedom of speech under rule of law, I still hope that ¡§From the Queen to the Chief Executive¡¨ will be introduced to the public through sound and vision.

 

Starting from the scripting stage till now, I have a strong belief that in order to arouse attention from the general public on the issue, this movie should be made easily comprehensible.  To achieve this end, I have decided to use a straightforward narrative approach to tell the story.  The original story comes in bits and pieces.  Elsa Chan, the author has arranged incidents of various juvenile criminals in different chapters.  To link up various incidents is a group of people who has been trying to strive for a definite sentence for these 17 prisoners who have been inflicted ¡§Detained at Her Majesty¡¦s Pleasure¡¨.  The story took place shortly before the handover.  We have spent hours to give a chronological order to various incidents to make up a complete story so as to enhance ease of understanding.  We did adapt for some incidents and characters while the sense of respect to originality and Elsa¡¦s message still prevails.  We have once considered adding a bit of melodrama but eventually gave up due to ethical reason.  The story taps on substantial legal issue and question making scriptwriting more difficult.

 

To get a better understanding of the various characters, I have personally met some of these 17 left behind at Shek Pik Prison, Lantau Island.  Journey to Shek Pik is no easy ride.  Private vehicle without a permit is not allowed direct access.  Public transport remains the only alternative.  Upon alighting, the long inclined slope directs the way to Shek Pik Prison.  A 30-minute visit takes hours of traveling time and only one prisoner is allowed for every visit.  When I got into the prison, I could only have a sense of aloofness.  A light whisper would result in big echo.  The hearing nerves would become numb.  Upon clearing up all the registration and inspection procedure, I was escorted to a quarantine interview room and asked to wait.  I was not alone at the interview room.  An old lady with the handset in her hand speechless, kept on wiping gazing at the young man on the other side of the window glass who shared the same feeling as hers with tears on his face.  The old lady had probably taken the same long ride as mine to get there for the precious moment.  Visiting a family member at the prison was no easy task.  I felt so sorry for her.  I began to realize that the whole family had to pay for the price collectively for the offence committed by a single member.

 

Soon I met the guy I had been waiting for and started chatting with him on the handset provided with a window glass separating us.  I could hardly hear clearly with all the echo and had to cover up one of my ears in order to get what was transmitting from the handset.  He was aware that I was planning a movie on them though I admitted that I still could not secure a sponsor and the fact that I was not sure how much I could help out.  He did not seem to be too keen on the movie subject.  Maybe he just did not have any expectation from the unexpected visitor.  Throughout the half an hour visit, I felt that he had an affluent legal knowledge.  By the time we said goodbye to each other, I noted tears in his eyes.  No matter what would be materialized, he was grateful to me having taken all the trouble for the visit.  Subsequently he wrote to me.

 

For the prisoners I have met, they all share decent look and manner.  If judging by appearance, I have to say that I look more like a villain than any one of them.  It is hard to imagine they have committed serious offence to deserve what they are getting.  We often take melodrama movies as they are and consider the plots very dramatic.  But as a matter of fact, they reflect the reality that we are facing everyday.  Those prisoners all share unpleasant childhood.  One of them was abandoned by the family ever since he was locked up.  His childhood was a total disaster.  He was brought up in an orphanage.  Even when he was so sick that he needed to be sent for surgery, he could only be accompanied by an orphanage staff.  At the age of 9, his family decided to make him stay with them solely for the purpose of acquiring a bigger housing unit from the government.  Not soon, he was made to leave his ¡§home¡¨ again.  Subsequently, he did what he had to pay for the rest of his life.  He was scared to death and wrote to the family for comfort.  Ironically, the letter was surrendered by his stepmother to the police and subsequently presented to court as evidence to what he had offended.  

It is fair enough to pay for what you have done yet the punishment should not be an indefinite one.  The Court of International Human Rights has pronounced that retaining a prisoner deferring to give a definite sentence violates the law of human rights.  The group of once juvenile criminals who was given the ¡§blessing¡¨ of being inflicted ¡§Detained at Her Majesty¡¦s Pleasure¡¨ is simply pleading nothing more but a definite retention period so that they can plan ahead for the future if they could have one.  Even though they are not sure when they will be able to leave the bars, they have been studying very hard and some of them obtained good academic result.

    

Casting is often a critical commercial decision and incurs a certain level of risk.  I have a tendency to cast unfamiliar faces so as to make the movie more realistic.  Stephen Tang, being an acquaintance of me for more than 10 years was cast to play the character of Leung Chung Kan.  Stephen is equipped with years of stage performing experience.  He often wears an unhappy face and it is also this attribute that I feel that he is the right person for the role of Leung Chung Kan who has spent most of his life caring for the society and fighting for the others.  Terrible things come up everyday and make people like Leung sorrowful.  The character of Yue Ling was played by Ai-jing, a singer from Shenyang, Mainland China who is another good friend of mine for years.  She personally shares the same character as Yue Ling who has a strong sense of righteousness and a negative feeling towards Hong Kong.  I met the real character of Cheung Yau Ming in Shek Pik.  I have to say he looks smart but rather timid and poignant.  He is very quiet and hardworking.  David Lee shares all these attributes.  

I have never intended to make the movie a tuition or political.  It so happened that it is a movie on juvenile criminals and the story took place at the time of our great moment of the handover.  What I would really like to address to are a minority group who has been abandoned and those who are willing to sacrifice their private time to show their concern for the minority group of the weak.  During the course of pre-production, I have been trying to identify the appropriate angle to narrate the story.  In view of the success of ¡§The Untold Story¡¨, some people around suggested to use the same format and select one of the incidents for this movie to secure box office takings.  I would feel sorry if this is the only way out.  People tend to think that movie on politics or of too serious a topic would just drive audience away.  Politics never suits my appetite but I do not feel right that Hong Kong filmmaker has to avoid politics.  We all can have and voice out our political urge.  Why can¡¦t we use movie as historical witness?  I have to say that those who claim they have no interests in politics are often the ones who get the most out of it.  I fully understand that fighting for justice for criminals would likely to end up fruitlessly.  However, a serious topic does not necessarily be fatal.  The handicap of local filmmakers is that they are too conservative and tend to make decision for the audience without actually find out what the audiences are looking for.  I respect everyone has freedom of speech.  But I sincerely hope that the die-hard would make way for alternative movie so that the local film industry will accommodate more variety, prosper and bloom one day.

 

Many people feel that ¡§From the Queen to the Chief Executive¡¨ is very much different from my previous productions which are considered to be close to the market or be short, commercial.  However, I do not feel the same.  Instead it shares much common ground.  I do not distinguish ¡§From the Queen to the Chief Executive¡¨ from my previous productions.  It is something that all the time I have been wishing to accomplish and I am glad to say that I made it.  As a movie director, it is always my ultimate dream that, as long as I can manage and be able to secure an investor, I am able to make good movies of different topics and categories that would please myself and be shared with the others.  Down deep from my heart, I have to confess that how the others take my movies is never my concern.  But the conflict is that movie should never be a private collection only and has to be shared with others.  What is more important is that by the time you have won the world, you are still loyal to your belief and if possible, loyal to the era that we are living in.

 

We have spent 3 million Hong Kong dollars for ¡§From the Queen to the Chief Executive¡¨ and I have spent almost 2 years to secure an investor.  The process was just a cycle of ups and downs.  Conservative belief tells that the potential risk of movie on such topic is extremely high.  It would never be a profitable venture.  Anything touching upon politics would be detrimental.  At the verge of giving up, Mr Charles Heung gave me the green light irrespective to all the negative noise.  I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr Heung who has made ¡§From the Queen to the Chief Executive¡¨ a reality.

 

Year of 2000 is just over.  To review the very last year of the 20th century, I have smoothly avoided the potential effect of the Y2K problem.  I have made the movie ¡§Master Q 2001¡¨ and hopefully it would be my darling daughter¡¦s favorite.  It is the very first Chinese movie incorporating both 3D computer animation and live characters involving the most special effects ever staged in Chinese cinema.  I am also involved in another master piece of Tsui Hark, ¡§Zu ¡V Warriors from the Magic Mountain II¡¨ and last but not least, ¡§From the Queen to the Chief Executive¡¨.  What would be the impact of the movies when they come out, no one knows.  Anyhow, the year of 2000 is a good sign for me.

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Director : Herman Yau
Original Author & Screenplay : Elsa Chan
Cinematography : Joe Chan

Cast

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Stephen Tang
Art Director : Fung Yuen Chi Ai-jing
Costume Designer : William Fung David Lee
Action Choreographer : Hung Cheung Dak Mercy Wong
Live Recording : Lee Kwong Tim Sam Wong
Editor : Chan Kei Hop Ursula Wong
Music : Brother Hung
Production Manager : Delly Koo

Presented by : Charles Heung
Administration Producer : Tiffany Chen
Producer : Nam Yin

Presented by One Hundred Years of Film Company Limited

A Production of Nam Yin Production Company Limited

Distributed by ChinaStar Entertainment Group

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Links about the movie
( I ) ( II ) ( III ) ( IV ) ( V )
( VI ) ( VII ) ( VIII )

¡@( IX )

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