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Filmmaker Wong recalls journey from Hong Kong to Iowa and back

Hong Kong film director Adam Wong was the guest speaker at a workshop held at the New York Film Academy.

At a New York Film Academy (NYFA) workshop on June 30, visiting Hong Kong director Adam Wong told young aspiring filmmakers to hold onto their dreams, recounting what had inspired him to land “Best New Director” awards in 2014.

When asked by moderator Jonathan Whittaker, chair of short-term programs at NYFA, what led him to study in the U.S., Mr. Wong said as a fine arts student in Hong Kong almost two decades ago, he had already determined to be a director. This led him to enroll in a yearlong exchange program at the University of Iowa, where he started making his first short film.

He was later given the opportunity to direct what would become his first feature film - “When Beckham Met Owen” (2004), which paid homage to his own youth. The film referenced Japanese comic Captain Tsubasa in the names of the lead characters, and Mr. Wong made unique stylistic choices that reflect his background in art and experimental films from his days as a student. The film won him the “Independent Spirit Award” at the 2004 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival.

His latest short, “Assignment” (2016), reflected his desire to work with children and young people and marked a change in stylistic choices and increased freedom to stretch and explore his directing muscles.  

Jonathan Whittaker (left), chair of short-term programs at NYFA, moderates the question-and-answer session with Adam Wong.

Mr. Wong said he learned quite a bit from the rather uphill battle of directing his second feature film, “Magic Boy,” in 2007 and that the obstacles he faced have allowed him to reach a stage in his directing career where he can explore different styles to make the films he envisions.

In between, he directed “The Way We Dance” (2013), which won him “Best New Director” titles at the Hong Kong Film Awards and Hong Kong Directors’ Guild Awards in 2014. He has continued to apply his belief that “film can be anything” and takes to heart the conviction that if the story is clear, style will follow. 

As someone who is living out his dream in real time, Mr. Wong defies the sentiment explored in his film “She Remembers, He Forgets” (2015) — that Hong Kong is not a place for dreamers.

Mr. Wong was visiting New York at the invitation of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York. The office had screened Mr. Wong’s breakthrough film, “The Way We Dance,” in New York and Boston in 2013.


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