Friday, August 31, 2012

$upercapitalist seeks fortune in Hong Kong and wreaks havoc

To listen to the KUCI Subversity Online podcast of our interview with actor, producer and script writer Derek Ting, click on: .
Derek Ting (as Conner Lee right) finds romance
with Kathy Uyen (left) as Natalie Wang in $upercapitalist

Blasting across the U.S. and into Asia is $upercapitalist, an independently produced drama that is intelligently written, exquisitely acted, fast-moving and fun to watch. It depicts a smart Asian American Cornell graduate and newly minted hedge fund trader, Conner Lee, sent to Hong Kong from New York to orchestrate the downfall of a major Hong Kong shipping conglomerate.

In a world where all bets are off and the only goal is making money, lots of it, in the frenetic global city of Hong Kong, these money makers, or $upercapitalists show contempt for locals while immersed in the the fast-moving expat world of fantasy and pleasure.

Yet Conner Lee (played ably by former CNN International Hong-Kong based producer Derek Ting, who also wrote the tight script and produced the film) finds his match in Natalie Wang (superbly played by UC Irvine Film & Media Studies and Economics graduate Kathy Uyen) who manages to turn this $upercapitalist into a caring human being. Believe it or not, this film offers up a stinging critique of the Darwinism inherent in capitalistic hedge fund trades. Wang ends up reminding Lee that life should not be just about making tons of money.

Uyen in 2009 won Vietnam's Golden Kite award for her supporting role in Victor Vu's Passport to Love. She was interviewed for Subversity two years ago about another acting role, in Fools for Love. In that interview, she recalled her days working in the UC Irvine Libraries as a student assistant in the multimedia resources center.

Derek Ting (Conner Lee) finally gets to meet Richard Ng (as Donald Chang)

For an independently-produced film, it is heartening to see many big name actors involved. Linus Roache (Batman Begins, Law & Order) stars as the evil Wall Streeter Mark Patterson while veteran Hong Kong actors Kenneth Tsang (A Better Tomorrow 2, The Killer) and Richard Ng (Winners and Sinners, Tom Raider) have key roles in the Hong Kong conglomerate Conner is taking on.

Tsang, who is currently working as the lead actor with Ang Lee on the latter's remake of Eat Drink Man Woman, acts as Victor Chang, the congenial yet conniving elder brother of the patriarch of the Hong Kong conglomerate.

Ng stars as the stoic CEO of this conglomerate who tries to keep the family business on a stable course as turmoil erupts around him.

On our Subversity Online interview yesterday, Ting delves into why they were able to make this film, for just around half a million dollars. He didn't charge himself a salary for being the lead actor, and friends of the production were able to line up impressive donations, including the use of a jet, a Bentley, and Macau casino locations (courtesy of mogol Stanley Ho).

One scene actually brought me to tears as I told Ting. So in addition to high finance intrigue there is an emotional side to this otherwise fast-paced film.

Ting conceived the script before the 2008 stock market collapse. According to the production ,notes, for research, Ting "visited the offices of various hedge funds, read a number of books such as, Hedge Hogging by Barton Biggs, Ugly Americans by Ben Mezrich, Hedge Hunters by Katherine Burton, and watched as many different finance movies available. The script draws from some of Derek’s favorite movies including Michael Clayton, Wall Street, Good Will Hunting, Star Trek (J.J. Abrams), Body Of Lies, and The Firm."

The notes also state: "$upercapitalist is one of the most diverse films to date. The film features African Americans, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, South Asians, British, Easter Europeans, Vietnamese, Australians, Americans, Canadians, and several other ethnicities. And on set a number of small parts cropped up and the team had to pull actors from their own crew. The transportation supervisor Sydney Chan and Art Director Vicky Chow appear in the film."

Ting decided to take on the part of Conner Lee after a Hollywood producer, who happened to be Asian American, told him a Caucasian actor would make the project more viable. To his credit, Ting decided to put the lure of millions in check and took on the role of the lead actor himself, making the film much more interesting and true to the script he had labored on.

The film is directed by Simon Yin, a former MTV and NBC director and founder of the Hong Kong-based Bamboo Star, an advertising campaign company.

$upercapitalist opens in Southern California this evening at 7 pm at the new Laemmle Theater, the NoHo7, 5240 Lankershim Boulevard North Hollywood, CA 91601, with Q&A with Derek Ting & Kathy Uyen to follow the screening. NoHo7 is conveniently located right off the Metro Red Line. Ticket information.

The film opened in New York and Washington D.C. earlier this month. In addition to selected forthcoming screenings in the U.S. (San Diego, Palo Alto, Berkeley, San Francisco) and in Asia (expected openings in Hong Kong and Singapore in October), the film is available for online viewing via VOD on various platforms, including simultaneous USA/CAN Cable VOD, Amazon and iTunes stores in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, as well as UK, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia.

Update 4 September 2012

See also interview on CNTV- Daniel C. Tsang.

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