Friday, 3 September 2010

SARS on film

Hollywood director Steven Soderbergh may revive sad memories when he comes to Hong Kong to shoot a movie in October.

That's because he will be directing an action thriller called Contagion about the SARS epidemic that happened in 2003. The movie will have an all-star cast including Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Gwyneth Paltrow.

The only Hong Kong actor confirmed so far is Josie Ho Chiu-yee, the daughter of casino mogul Stanley Ho. Apparently she met with Soderbergh two months ago and she will play a relative of "patient zero", a virus carrier who spreads SARS to the United States.

The film will also be shot in Japan, Britain and Brazil. It is not known who the other actors will be for the Hong Kong location shoots.

However it is interesting to know that Ho has already been chosen, apparently for her fluency in English and acting experience. It'll be interesting to see how she matches up with these Hollywood heavyweights on screen.

In any case, there are concerns that the film may upset Hong Kong people as it could dredge up the memories of the deadly outbreak that killed 299 people in the city.

The epidemic began in February 2003 when Guangzhou medical professor Liu Jianlun came to Hong Kong for a wedding, unaware that he was carrying the virus. He stayed on the ninth floor of the Metropole Hotel in Mongkok which became known as "ground zero". He infected seven other people, some of whom carried the virus overseas before he died. In the end over 8,000 people were infected, 774 died.

My friends in Hong Kong told me how the city turned into a ghost town, after many people fled overseas, worried about being infected. Restaurants and shops were practically empty. Some friends told me how they would get home from work, strip off all their clothing and wash it, and take a shower before hugging their children, unsure if they might be carrying the virus anywhere on their bodies and clothes. Others would sit in the MTR or taxi and wonder if the person sitting there before them was a SARS carrier. It was a very scary time for people in Hong Kong.

How appealing a fictional movie account of SARS will be to the general public remains to be seen, but Hong Kongers probably won't be interested in watching a movie reliving their terrified lives again seven years ago.

1 comment:

  1. with all these a-list hollywood heavy weights i think it will sell in the western world depending on how well the script is written. after all hong kong is just a small fish in the world movie market.