Director Giddens Ko and actor Kent Tsai.
Taiwanese novelist-turned-director Giddens Ko takes a rather different approach for his latest movie "Mon Mon Mon Monsters".
The director who is known for his sappy romantic comedy hit "You are the Apple of My Eye", takes a total 360-degree turn as his new movie is of a darker theme and focuses on the subject of bullying.
The movie served as the closing film for the 41st Hong Kong International Film Festival, receiving generally positive reviews from the critics for the important social message it conveys.
As the message resonates with today's society, the film also won the NH Audience Award at the 21st Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival.
Starring mostly newcomers including Deng Yu-kai, Kent Tsai, Eugenie Liu, Lin Pei-hsin, and Carolyn Chen, "Mon Mon Mon Monsters" is finally at our shores!
Cinema Online: The movie is very warm and sincere, do you feel touched seeing the result of the movie?
Giddens: Everyone gave me their different responses. The theme of the movie is a bit darker. It's not the commercial kind which you always see on television. So at first I was afraid that everyone would be disappointed, but I think in the end, the message got through to the audience. So the response gave me confidence and I'm very thankful.
Why choose Kent Tsai to lead this movie?
Giddens: Initially we decided to use phones to shoot this movie. We wanted to do it like a found-footage style of movie. A group of students come across a monster and they use their phones to record the occurrences. So we needed amateur actors to fill in the role. There were more than 800 people who came for the audition, but only 30 people passed it. They had trainings for about three and a half months, and we observed each of them during that time. So I told them that if I were to pick you to play one of the major roles, who would you wish to act alongside you, and a lot of them mentioned Kent.
This is Giddens Ko third directorial film.
Kent, since this is your first movie, have you ever imagined that you would ever come this far?
Kent: I did back in high school. Because I studied in this department so I participated in a lot of theatre plays, and I always get the major roles. I liked watching movies and television series since I was young, so I've always dreamed of acting in movies and series. So every time when there's an opportunity, like auditions, I would immediately sign up.
The first two movies by you, Giddens, are sweet and innocent. But this movie is the opposite of those two. Why such a huge change?
Giddens: For me, the first movie, "You are the Apple of My Eye" is quite scary too. The movie is about a guy who likes a girl for more than ten years, and until the end he couldn't get her. Throughout the years, he becomes depressed and dark, so I think the theme is quite heavy and dark as well.
The actress who plays the ghost is actually very pretty in real life. Why did you turn her into that creature?
Giddens: I know the actress personally and when I was writing the script, I already had two characters in my head. One is the teacher and one is the monster. If I were to choose someone ugly to play the ghost, everyone would definitely condemn me. But if I choose a pretty woman to play the role, no one would think negatively.
Kent, do you have any memorable moments from this movie?
Kent: I think it's the part when the teacher hit me. Because it's the first time that made me felt like I was really in the movie. It's not the first time that I was hit too because my mom had always hit me when I was young. But that moment is the first time that got me into my role. Because before that scene, I had no idea what I was doing in the film, but after getting hit for more than 40 times, it finally got me into the film's mood!
Kent made his acting debut in HBO Asia's first original series in Mandarin, "The Teenage Psychic".
The film is rather violent; are there scenes that got cut for the Southeast Asia version?
Giddens: Yeah, I think there are two scenes that got cut for Malaysia. Same like Singapore. I think it's because of the different laws we have. In Taiwan, the film is uncensored and anyone 15-years-old and above can watch it. I think in Malaysia and Singapore, they had censored certain parts so that the film can allow 15 and 16-year-old teenagers to watch. But even though the two scenes are cut, it doesn't affect the plot or the message that I try to convey in the film, so it's okay.
Why did you decide to shoot this kind of movie? Does it have anything to do with your personal experience?
Giddens: It does have something to do with my personal experience but not the supernatural kind. It's more of my dark past, but since it's personal I cannot share exactly what it is. But I tried to cover something of a normal occurrence, issues you see every day. I don't want to shoot something that doesn't usually happen in everyday life. So the main issue that the film is trying to tackle is bullying – with a horror setting.
We came across many cases of online bullying, and we think it's very scary. But it's not about the content, but the mind set of those who bully who think what they did is right and manage to get some similar people to stand on their side. I think this kind of pattern and mind set is very scary. This is quite rampant on the internet but we don't see it, not because we have a similar mind set, but because the internet has so much information that we aren't able to absorb all that we see.
And on Facebook, there are a lot of keyboard warriors, people are basically addicted to condemning and criticising people online, but does doing so make you a better person? That's what I'm trying to point out in my movie.
The press conference in Malaysia was held at Red Box, Pavilion.
Cinema Online, 17 August 2017