Fake notes, real trouble

HONG KONG • Counterfeit money is hidden. Police uncover the stash. Justice is served.

It sounds like a film noir plot, but the fake bills had been used as props in an award-winning crime thriller filmed in Hong Kong. And the two suspects, who received suspended four-month sentences last week, were members of a film production crew.

The question, local cinephiles said, is why the police bothered to press charges. They noted that the case illustrates how onerous rules are needlessly hampering a local industry whose golden age of Bruce Lee gongfu films and Wong Kar Wai dramas seems long past, and which now struggles to compete against studios in South Korea and mainland China.

"It's hypocritical," founder Kevin Ma of Asia In Cinema, a news site for the regional industry, said of the convictions. Even as Hong Kong officials talk of supporting film-makers, he said, "they have these weird, arcane laws that prevent the industry from putting in serious production values".

The authorities said the fake currency lacked permits for storage and transportation, which the film's producers were responsible for getting.

It was used on the set of Trivisa (2016), about criminals in the lead-up to the former British territory's 1997 handover to China. The film won five prizes at the 2017 Hong Kong Film Awards, including best film.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2018, with the headline 'Fake notes, real trouble'. Print Edition | Subscribe