Mark Lee takes on China market with CNY comedy

Reunion Dinner is the result of a co-production deal between local distributor Clover Films and Chinese streamer iQiyi

Actor Mark Lee is under no pressure to duplicate the critical success of the 2020 movie Number 1 for his new film, even though it pairs him with Ong Kuo Sin, the director who helmed the critically acclaimed film.

"The two are different films, with different styles," says Lee.

For playing a straight-laced man who takes up a job managing a drag club, Lee, 52, was last year nominated for a Golden Horse Award for Best Actor.

Speaking to The Straits Times on the telephone yesterday, he says his upcoming comedy Reunion Dinner is more light-hearted, while Number 1 contained story-driven drama elements.

"Number 1 was more story-based, but Reunion is a Chinese New Year show with more fun situations happening," he says, adding that award nominations are also a matter for producers, who choose what to submit for competitions.

Lee lost the acting award to Mo Tzu-yi, who was in the drama Dear Tenant (2020), but costume designer Azni Samdin and hair and make-up director Raymond Kuek won a Golden Horse Award for Best Make-up And Costume Design for their work on the film.

With its Singapore box-office take of $862,000, it was the eighth-highest-grossing Asian film last year.

Ong, 47, who was on the same call, adds he was looking forward to "come together and have fun" with Lee and the cast.

The new movie marks the third feature film collaboration for Lee and Ong, after the drama-comedy Judgement Day (2013) and Number 1.

Reunion Dinner is among four films helmed by Singapore directors that are the result of a co-production deal between local distributor Clover Films and Chinese streamer iQiyi. It will be the first film to enter production and released theatrically in Singapore and on the iQiyi platform in China.

It stars Lee, Beijing-based Singaporean actor Lawrence Wong, veteran local actress Xiang Yun, Chinese actress Cya Liu, Hong Kong veteran Mimi Choo and Mediacorp artistes Guo Liang and Zhu Houren.

Ong says he is excited to be among the first Singaporean film-makers to get a wide release in China, the world's largest film market.

Lee feels that stories come alive when there is a focus on situations that matter to the film-makers. It is what makes movies from Hollywood or Hong Kong special, he says.

"So we should represent our own local culture. Audiences in China are also interested in Singapore's Chinese New Year culture. We should just be who we are," he adds.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2021, with the headline 'Mark Lee takes on China market with CNY comedy'. Subscribe