22 May 2009 - 10:02 AM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2014 - 4:07 PM

Fruit Chan – Dumplings

His movies are largely banned in China, and he's been vocal about everything from prostitution to triads. In DUMPLINGS, director FRUIT CHAN tackles cannibalism and eternal youth. BY FILMINK'S MARTA JARY

“Did you just say you support cannibalism?” This is how my interview with legendary Hong Kong director Fruit Chan begins – a surreal banter about flesh-eating and beauty cults down a crackling phone line with the language barrier leaving a little too much lost in translation.

In discussing Chan's latest film, such topics as abortion, cannibalism and the consumption of fetuses are just part and parcel of the risk-taking director's latest offering. Dumplings is at face value a departure from his more political works – the most ballsy of which, Made In Hong Kong and Durian Durian, dealt relentlessly with the often-untouched underbelly of Hong Kong, and were subsequently banned in most of China. Chan has often joked that he is, however, huge with DVD pirates.

But despite its grisly subject matter, Dumplings (about a woman who peddles fetus-filled dumplings as a perverse version of the fountain of youth) proves to be yet another indictment of elements of modern Asian society that Chan has strived to expose throughout his 20-year career. While both the Western and Eastern obsession with beauty and youth has led to the real-life horrors of plastic surgery, Chan admits that in some sectors of Asian society, practices such as drinking blood are still prevalent among the more superstitious citizens.

It turns out that while Chan himself doesn't necessarily support eating babies, he acknowledges that the practice is still a money spinner. “In South China in particular, there are people who believe that if you drink blood, you can cure diseases of the blood, and if you eat a fetus, a young thing, that it can give you youth and turn back ageing. It's still legal in some areas and people do still do it,” he admits.

Chan acknowledges that the Asian beauty industry is huge, and that women are being exploited – and exploiting others – in the consumerist race for youth. “In many of my films, I explore the power that money has over certain elements of Hong Kong's culture, and if someone like Mei [the dumpling cook] could have access to fetuses to sell to rich women, she would certainly take that opportunity,” he laughs.

Chan has plans for further forays into Chinese traditional culture – including another horror film – but acknowledges that Hong Kong cinema is in trouble, with audiences down to a bare minimum and illegal DVD trade ruling the market. “The money has dried up in a lot of Asian movie making,” he says. “There are DVDs and movies on TV and mobiles now, which gives filmmakers new ways to approach making movies, but there aren't really audiences for cinemas any more, which leaves the industry in a dire state.”