Pop stars' comeback tour captured on film

Updated: 2013-07-12 09:11

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily)

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Pop stars' comeback tour captured on film

Cantopop music artists Edmond Choy (left), Edmond So (center) and Eric Kot discussed the film that documents their work, The Great War: Director's Cut, before its world premiere screening at the New York Asian Film Festival. Caroline Berg / China Daily

Pop stars' comeback tour captured on film

Pathfinder pianist

Yan Yan Mak put a lot of time and effort into following two Cantonese music groups with cameras last year. It wasn't until she really immersed herself in the five performers' lives that she decided to create a documentary.

"I became completely engrossed in making this film because of the people - not only the performers, but also the everyday people I followed and interviewed," Mak said at a press conference in New York on July 2. "This film is very authentic to Hong Kong culture."

Three of the five members of the Cantonese music groups Grasshopper and Softhard joined Mak at Lincoln Center last week to discuss The Great War: Director's Cut. Mak's documentary follows the musicians as they prepare and perform 12 concerts together to relive and commemorate 1990's Cantonese popular music - "Cantopop."

"We grew up in Hong Kong and our music reflects that," Grasshopper member Calvin Choy says. "Through this project, I was able to recall so many special things from growing up in Hong Kong and the experiences we shared that encompassed the local spirit."

The Great War: Director's Cut had its world premiere last week at the Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center, where it played on July 2 and 3 as part of the New York Asian Film Festival.

Choy and Edmond So of Grasshopper and Eric Kot of Softhard were present for a press conference and attended the screenings to participate in question and answer sessions and sign autographs after the shows.

The show's concept pegs the two groups together to battle it out for stage supremacy. The groups open the concert together with a medley of 1980's and 1990's tunes, which they split up and trade the spotlight with each song.

As Softhard member Jan Lamb said in an interview in the film, these two groups come from two extremes.

The three members of Grasshopper - brothers Calvin and Remus Choy and their childhood neighbor Edmond So - landed a contract in 1987 and have since released 40 albums. They are known for dressing like Liberace, dancing like Lady Gaga and singing bubblegum Cantopop like Britney Spears.

The two men behind Softhard - DJ Soft (Lamb) and MC Hard (Kot) - began as radio DJs in the late 1980's and became hip-hop artists in the 1990's, and are generally known among the Hong Kong community as endearing and smart screwballs.

"We have known each other for a long time, but we've never really collaborated on this level," says Choy. "With this collaboration, I felt a real brotherhood among us all."

Every night of the 2012 concert series the audience named a winner in this battle of the bands. Grasshopper and Softhard won an even six and six split, as determined by technology that measured the volume of the audience's cheers.

"This meant the audience could actually have a voice in who won," Mak says. "That I think is a very important point."

Mak's documentary incorporated Hong Kong news footage, including clips of Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung, to enhance her message and lend more to the local flavor of her film. "The news clips that you see in the film are really things that happened in Hong Kong, as well as (the artists') preparation, their performance - those were all things that happened in 2012."

The film director says despite her focus on events that happened last year, she believes topics she addressed are still relevant in Hong Kong today.

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