Preview – Ann Hui Retrospective at the 11th Five Flavours Asian Film Festival
This year’s Five Flavour’s retrospective is devoted to Ann Hui, one of the most renowned female directors in Asia. Her films has been portraying the changes in Hong Kong society for nearly 50 years. Her latest work, Our Time Will Come, will open this year’s festival on 15 November.
Hui’s work has been present at Five Flavours since 2013, when Hong Kong cinema first appeared at the Festival. Her A Simple Life opened the 7th edition of Five Flavours, and her Night and Fog was included in the Focus: Hong Kong section. A year later, the 8th edition closed with The Golden Era (2014) – a film portrait of an extraordinary Chinese writer, Xiao Hong, who spent her last years in Japanese-occupied Hong Kong.
This year, Hui returns with her new film, once again inspired by history. Our Time Will Come portrays the local resistance movement in the 1940s, and its relation to modern Hong Kong touches upon one of the most important themes in the director’s works – the question of the identity of an individual in a wide, sociopolitical context.
The retrospective will include the following titles:
Our Time Will Come (2017)
Hui once again uses a multi-perspective narration to speak about complex relations and cruel history. She focuses the story around Fang (Zhou Xun) – a teacher who, due to a series of coincidences, becomes increasingly involved in the resistance. Thanks to the refined sound and visual side, Hong Kong of the 1940s is portrayed as an ominously empty space, hidden in the shadow of uncertainty. Joe Hisaishi’s minimalist soundtrack reaches its full strength in the grand finale, illustrating Fang’s transformation from a book-loving teacher to an emissary, fully aware of her identity and agency.
A Simple Life (2011)
One of Hui’s most renowned films is a seemingly simple portrait of the relationship between a film producer, Roger (Andy Lau), and his elderly housekeeper, Ah Tao (Deanie Ip). When the woman suffers a stoke and has to stop working, she asks Roger to put her in a nursing home. The situation becomes a starting point for painting a picture of social relations, in which traditional bonds and arrangements do not avert the feeling of alienation and the need to look for close ties outside the biological family.
Hui based A Simple Life on real events from the life of producer Roger Lee and his housekeeper Ah Tao. The private story quickly turned into a screenplay, and Roger Lee – on of the most renown producers in Hong Kong – helped out with the project. The film marked a great return of Deanie Ip, whose role brought her a prestigious Volpi Cup at the 68th Venice IFF.
Summer Snow (1995)
A humorous portrayal of the everyday struggles of the 40-year old May Sun (Josephine Siao), who tries to reconcile professional duties and family obligations. The troubles at home revolve around the health of her father-in-law, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. After the premature death of his wife, the tradition requires Mary to take over the role of the caretaker. Overwhelmed by new responsibilities, the woman faces a difficult choice of putting the father-in-law in a home and going against the traditional values.
Summer Snow is one of the director’s most award-winning films to date. It won Best Picture at the prestigious Golden Horse Awards, and Hong Kong Film Awards. Outside of Asia, it was also presented at the 45th Berlinale, where Josephine Siao won the Silver Bear, and the film received the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.
Boat People (1982)
A moving portrayal of post-war Vietnam, inspired by the conversations the director had with Vietnamese refugees, known as “boat people,” when she was still working in television. The film takes on the perspective of a Japanese photographer, Shiomi Akutagawa (George Lim), who returns to Danang in 1978. He is invited by the communist government to show the world the prosperity of the newly established country. But the reality Akutagawa discovers is very different from the official slogans.
The controversial topic, which the Vietnamese government tried to suppress, cost Ann Hui a Palme d’Or nomination. Boat People was initially selected to for the main competition in Cannes in 1983, but under the pressure from French government, desperate to have good relationship with the Vietnamese authorities, the film was rejected and shown out of competition, as a surprise-feature.
The Secret (1979)
Hui’s cinema debut is a story inspired by a murder that shook Hong Kong at the time. The head detective, Lin (Sylvia Chang) quickly discovers that conflicting statements and a multitude of leads won’t bring the mystery to a simple close. Instead, the enigmatic crime leads her to the world of Chinese rituals and beliefs in stray ghosts. Formally, the clash of tradition and modernity in the British colony is enhanced by the multi-perspective narration, creating an ambiguous, multi-layered reality. Filled with the atmosphere of mystery and tension, Hong Kong is a fog-coated city full of secretive back alleys, where the protagonists are haunted by traumatic memories.
This section is presented thanks to the support of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Berlin.
The 11th edition of the Five Flavours Asian Film Festival takes place from November 15-22 in Warsaw. Festival passes can be bought here.
Organizer: Arteria Art Foundation
Partners: City of Warsaw, The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Polish Film Institute, Japan Foundation, Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Berlin, Asian Film Awards Academy.