The Great War

(Hong Kong, 2013)
World Premiere
97 minutes, DCP, in Cantonese with English subtitles
Directed by: Yan Yan Mak
Starring: Grasshopper (Calvin Choy, Remus Choy, Edmond So), Softhard (Jan Lamb, Eric Kot)
All the members of Grasshopper and Softhard will attend the screening.

If you have never been to a Cantopop concert, if you don’t get Cantonese pop music with its Heavenly Kings, maniacal fans, and the quasi-religious fervor, then this documentary is for you. Grasshopper was a Cantopop trio in the 90’s who took the world by storm. They got their start dancing and singing on the New Talent Singing Awards and won the show. One of the judges was Hong Kong’s version of Madonna, Anita Mui, and she took the three boys under her wing and turned them into the glitziest superheroes in Cantopop’s Celestial sphere. Softhard are a hip hop duo who started in the 90’s as two wildly popular radio DJs. They soon began putting out their own albums of hyperactive, hilarious hip hop (you can see them lighting themselves on fire and beating up audience members in Jackie Chan’s City Hunter) and became crowd-pleasing stars.

In a blast of 90’s Cantopop nostalgia, the two groups staged 12 concerts together in 2012, selling out all the shows in record time and playing to over 140,000 Hong Kong citizens. The conceit of the show is that the two groups of Canto-survivors are battling for stage supremacy and after opening together with a medley of 80’s and 90’s tunes they split up, with Grasshopper taking one song and Softhard taking the next, including massive medleys about Hong Kong culture that bring the show to a standstill as the fans go wild, and a savage parody of the craze for Beijing cool that sees the audience going bananas, pumping fists, waving glow sticks, and screaming for more. These two groups aren’t just singers, they’re entertainers whose massive stage shows would put Broadway to shame. They perform in elaborate costumes, in gold leaf, behind fabulous masks, with dozens of back-up dancers, and a lightning storm of laser lights instruments.

This documentary was shot by Yan Yan Mak, the Hong Kong director behind movies like Butterfly (2004) and Merry-Go-Round (2010), and it’s crammed with backstage footage, concert footage, and uncomfortably frank conversations with the performers who don’t hestitate to mock each another. Even better, she follows a handful of fans through the concert, everyone from Hong Kong locals to Korean Cantopop fanatics, to give an idea of not just this concert, not just these performers, but what Cantopop means to Hong Kong and how it is the soul of a city that’s always in danger of losing its own. Cheesy, corny, comedic, ridiculous, and honest, this is Cantopo uncensored.

Part of Hong Kong Cinema Now & Beyond

Tuesday July 2, 6:45PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets

Wednesday July 3, 12:30PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets