White Mulberry Award for First Time Director Nominee
Hand Rolled Cigarette
手捲煙 (Sau Gyun Yin)
Hong Kong, 2020, 100’, Cantonese
Directed by: Chan Kin-long
Script: Ryan Ling, Chan Kin-long
Photography (color): Rick Lau
Editing: Alan Lo
Art Direction: Yman Yiu
Music: Hanz Au, III IrisLiu
Producer: Lawrence Lau
Cast: Lam Ka-tung (Chiu), Bipin Karma (Mani), Michael Ning (Chook), Ben Yuen (Tai), Tai Bo (Bamboo), To Yin-gor (Pickle), Chin Siu-ho (Wah), Tony Ho (Tofu), Chu Pak-him (Wood), Aaron Chow (Winston), Bitto Singh Hartihan (Kapil), Mansu (Anees), Joman Chiang (teacher)
Date of First Release in Territory: November 3rd, 2020 (HKAFF)
One of the boldest works to come from Hong Kong’s new crop of filmmakers, Hand Rolled Cigarette marks the feature-directing debut of Chan Kin-long and confidently steers the city’s much celebrated thriller genre into exciting directions.
Lam Ka-tung heads the cast as Chiu, an ex-soldier among those left behind when the British disbanded the local regiment ahead of the 1997 Hong Kong handover. Now living alone and cut off from his old army mates after a sour turn of events, Chiu is playing with fire in a scheme to sell smuggled turtles to gang boss Tai (Ben Yuen). And added risk sets in when a young South Asian with a backpack loaded with Tai’s cocaine slips into Chiu’s home to escape pursuers. The visitor, Mani (Bipin Karma), is holding the stash for his drug-dealing cousin Kapil (Bitto Singh Hartihan), who’s in hiding to avoid Tai and his vicious enforcer Chook (Michael Ning).
Chiu isn’t a picture of sensitivity towards Mani to begin with – he’d rather use a racial slur than call the young man by his name, and he charges $1 million to let Mani stay – but slowly he recognises another abandoned soul and offers support. When Mani’s younger brother Mansu (Anees) gets in a fight at school, Chiu steps up to first see the teacher and then help place the kid in a hideaway. But danger is never far away – not only has Tai launched a manhunt to get his drugs back, but there’s trouble with the turtle business too.
Produced by Lawrence Lau, himself no stranger to making gritty screen sagas, Hand Rolled Cigarette is among the latest movies to come out of Hong Kong’s First Feature Film Initiative – a government scheme that funds pictures helmed by new talent. And just as other FFFI filmmakers have done, Chan Kin-long used a tight budget to deliver sleek and classy cinema.
Chan, an alumnus of the Fresh Wave short film programme, draws on the local film industry’s famed “heroic bloodshed” heritage but updates it with the social concern that drives so many of the city’s young filmmakers. As Tai’s goons hunt through night-time streets and seedy-looking old buildings, Chan’s film veers into chases, torture and brutal fights, all capturing a strong sense of menace, and shows brotherhood growing between Chiu and Mani. Meanwhile, there’s comment on the legacy of the old army regiment’s departure and a welcome integration of ethnic minority Hongkongers into the plot along with recognition of ways local South Asians can be wrongly treated as outsiders. At one point early on, for instance, Chiu expresses surprise at Mani’s good Cantonese, even though many ethnic minority families have lived in Hong Kong for generations.
In the lead role, Lam Ka-tung gives an unglamorous performance as a solitary figure muddling along in the fringes of society, while co-star Bipin Karma brings fresh talent and energy to his role – the actor’s parkour skills even figure into an early chase. As the film progresses the pair make an intriguing team as two people pushed together under dire circumstances and forming a loyal bond. Lam found himself nominated for Best Actor in Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards earlier this year for his part in the picture, and Chan Kin-long was shortlisted for Best Director among the film’s six other nominations (Best Feature Film included). Not bad for Chan’s first effort, and a sign of how new entrants to Hong Kong cinema, even if working with limited means, are punching well above their weight.
Chan Kin-long graduated from the School of Creative Media of the City University of Hong Kong and entered film as a maker of shorts and as an actor. His short film I Can’t Live Without a Dream was made under the 2013 Fresh Wave programme for emerging talent, and his early acting work included a role in Fruit Chan’s The Midnight After (2014). In 2018 his movie-production proposal was selected for the First Feature Film Initiative, which funds the work of new directors. The resulting film, Hand Rolled Cigarette, premiered in 2020.
2020 – Hand Rolled Cigarette