Red Carpet: Dazzling Season 18 Closing Night of Chicago’s Asian Pop-Up Film Festival

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CHICAGO – The spotlight and excitement was at the Final Weekend of Season 18 for Chicago’s Asian Pop-Up Cinema (APUC). The buzz was for APUC Bright Star Awardee Carlos Chan. The respect was for Hong Kong legend Rebecca Pan, who received APUC’s Lifetime Achievement Award, all during Hong Kong Cinema Showcase.

The 2024 Season 18 Closing Night on April 20th included a Red Carpet event for the honored Hong Kong attendees, which included Carlos Chan and his director Benny Lau for “We Are Family.” Director Isabel Wong represented her documentary featuring Rebecca Pan, “Pai Niang Niang: The Last Osmanthus Blossom.” Director Mo Lai Yan Chi was there for her musical “Band Four” and director Kelvin Shum returned to Chicago to represent his horror epic “It Remains.”

Patrick McDonald of was there, and got the following Red Carpet Podtalk reactions from the attendees.

Bright Star Carlos Chan (in Green) Struts Down the Streets of Chicago
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StarAPUC Bright Star Awardee Carlos Chan & Director Benny Lau of ‘We Are Family’

“We Are Family” is an emotional and very funny film about an agency in Hong Kong that rents out actors as family members, and is a very lucrative company for economic hustler Carlos, portrayed by Carlos Chan. The main new employee for the agency is a temperamental actor portrayed by broad HK comic actor Eddie Tsang. The film was co-written and directed by Benny Lau.

The following is is an interview through an interpreter with the 2024 APUC Bright Star Awardee Carlos Chan for “We Are Family” and his career so far, plus some questions for his director Benny Lau, with a bonus audio clip. The incredible and essential interpreter was APUC board member Carmen Suen. Carlos, What does it mean to you to get the APUC Bright Star Award from a far-off land called Chicago for a performance that has meaning and family hope?

Carlos Chan: I never thought I’d get an honor from, as you said, from the far-off land of Chicago, but I’m very grateful to the Asian Pop-Up Cinema committee for giving me this award. But what I am most grateful for is the opportunity to have an exchange with the audience, whether it’s the Chinese community or anybody that loves Hong Kong films from this great city. Your character portrays a guy who wants to make money, but has guilt for creating pretend families. Which scene did you feel was key to understanding the character of Carlos in the film?

Chan: The scene I felt was most reflective of the character is when he calls a Dad and pretends that he is the man’s dead son, to convince the Dad that the son is still alive. I struggled with that scene in character … on one hand I know we’re trying to make the Dad happy, but on the other I was lying to him. I felt discomfort in a human sense, the man was old and didn’t deserve the lie.

Carlos Chan and Director Benny Lau of ‘We Are Family’
Photo credit: What type of role do you want to experience in your future career, that you haven’t done before, just to prove that you could make it work?

Chan: First, as a long term goal, I do want to branch out into producing and directing. But for short term acting goals, I’ve started my career and remain in more light hearted, younger oriented roles. So I really want to do something more in a serious vein, towards deeper human emotions and how we all think about our world. Benny, you co-wrote and directed the story. What inspired the idea, and what did your co-writer Ashley Cheung add to the story?

Benny Lau: We noticed in the last ten years, and especially after the pandemic, that the Hong Kong concept of family is essentially falling apart … there is a rise in divorce rates, single parent homes and fundamental communication issues in partnerships, just a lot of problems. That’s when I thought I’d explore family as my next film.

As I began to write with Ashley and another collaborator, we found that there was actually a business in Japan where you could rent family members. That was the connecting idea … we would write about that business but put it in a Hong Kong context. Since this is your fifth film as director, what is the greatest lesson you have learned about the filmmaking business, and how does the lesson help you survive?

Lau: The greatest lesson I’ve received is from the heights that my journey has given me … I am working with some of the best and most experienced actors in Hong Kong. It certainly boosts my self confidence, working with them and getting amazing outcomes.

And I appreciate, despite the lofty status of those actors, that they are willing to work with me, and to help me understand that I can also work with them in a self-assured collaboration. Going forward, it has given me the self reliance to know I can tackle other serious topics that interest me, and tell those stories.

Benny Lau talks about working with Eddie Tsang …

StarDirector Isabel Wong of “Pai Niang Niang: The Last Osmanthus Blossom”

Honoring Rebecca Pan: Filmmaker Isabel Wong with APUC Executive Director Sophia Wong Boccio
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The film is a remarkable documentary that Isabel Wong created on her way to a broader film about HK singing legend Rebecca Pan. In March of 1972, Ms. Pan’s self-financed musical “Pai Niang Niang” was the first one written in Mandarin, and it was performed 60 times at the Princess Theatre (in Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui district). This is a piece of HK art and cultural history, and also the most important milestone of Rebecca’s long career, also bringing together Eastern and Western theatrical styles for the first time.

In the audio clip, Director Wong talks about a key visual discovery, a videotape from the era showing key moments from the lost musical.

Go to PAGE TWO for more of the APUC Hong Kong Cinema Spotlight finale, with directors Mo Lai Yan Chi (“Band Four”) and Kelvin Shum (“It Remains”).

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