Featured Features Lists Projects The Ann Hui Project (21/34)

The Ann Hui Project List (21/34 Done, Ongoing)

Summer Snow still
As we have reviewed 21 of the 34 works of Ann Hui, we thought it was about time to publish a list about our collective work

On-wah is a film director, producer, screenwriter and actress from Hong Kong who is one of the most critically acclaimed filmmakers of the Hong Kong New Wave. She is known for her films about social issues in Hong Kong which include: literary adaptations, martial arts, semi-autobiographical works, women's issues, social phenomena, political changes, and thrillers. She served as the president of the Hong Kong Film Directors' Guild from 2004 to 2006.

Hui has won numerous awards. She won Best Director at the Golden Horse Awards times (1999, 2011, 2014); Best Film at the Asia Pacific Film Festival; and Best Director at the Hong Kong Film Awards six times (1983, 1996, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2018).

Only two films have won a Grand Slam (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress) at the Hong Kong Film Awards; they are and , both directed by Ann Hui. She was honored for her lifetime accomplishments at the 2012 Asian Film Awards. In 2017, the US based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited Hui to become a member.

As we have reviewed 21 of the 34 works of Ann Hui, we thought it was about time to publish a list about our collective work, while we continue searching for the rest. The list was derived from IMDB with some corrections when needed. You can check the full reviews by clicking on the titles. You can follow the project here

Interview

1. The Secret (1979)

” is where it all started for Ann Hui, who left television to make her feature film debut with this murder mystery. Based on a true story, a double homicide rocks Hong Kong. As the locality where the young woman lived still reels in from the shock, Lin, the best friend of the deceased girl starts having visions of the dead girl. Who killed the two? Whose shadow do the grandmother and Lin keep seeing in the house? And where is the red jacket that Li, the dead girl wore? “The Secret” scores not just as a whodunit, but it brings with it this incredible atmosphere of a paranoid '70s Hong Kong, a country torn between the east and the west, and attempts to offer an explanation to the then-recent murder mystery that had the country gripped. The editing for its time, in particular, deserves special mention. Upon release, the film was and still is hailed as an important work of the Hong Kong New Wave and was nominated for five awards at the Golden Horse Award including Best Feature Film (for which it came 2nd place) and Best Director for Ann Hui, ultimately winning Best Cinematography and Best Editing. (Rhythm Zaveri)

(1980)

Written with dramatic awareness and sense of humour by Joyce Chan, “The Spooky Bunch” is a lighthearted and entertaining reminder of the weight that the past casts over our actions. The oblivious young leading characters are asked to pay a dear price for something they didn't commit, and part of the irony comes from this “curse”. Especially contrasting with the burdensome past sins is the frivolous giddiness of Ah Chi who seems to fly unscathed through perils and vengeful presences only thanks to her absent mind, in typical comedy manner. (Adriana Rosati)

2. (1981)

Ann Hui's approach here is quite intriguing, as, despite the dramatic premises, and the intense sociopolitical comments about the fate of the Vietnamese refugees, which are actually implemented as a metaphor for the then upcoming Handover, the main approach of the movie remains quite genre-like. The first aspect that shows this approach is the subtle romance/love that is created between Woo Viet, Lap Quan and Shum Ching, but becomes even more evident as soon as the action kicks in, which is quite early on in the movie. The fact that Woo Viet is quite violent himself, and not particularly afraid of killing those who threaten his life or that of his loved ones, is the main source of this aspect, which carries on, from beginning to end. Even more so after the arrival in the Philippines, since the killer-for-hire job the protagonist takes, results in a series of rather brutal action scenes, where Ching Siu-tung's action choreography finds its apogee. (Panos Kotzathanasis)

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3. Boat People (1982)

Unsurprisingly, “Boat People” has been the center of endless discussions, exploited by one side or the other according to the occasional need and frankly the dramatic rendering of the post-war Vietnamese Communism is truly affecting but we must not forget this is an Ann Hui's movie and that consequently the focus and the perspective are on the ordinary people and their lives in a tragic and extraordinary moment in history. However, we cannot deny that, through another country's history, the director has channeled the anxiety for the future that Hong Kong was experiencing at that time, the malaise of uncertainty as the handover was casting its shadow, the so-called China Syndrome. (Adriana Rosati)

4. Song Of The Exile (1990)

Based on director Ann Hui's semi-autobiographical story, “” is a multi-layered family melodrama set in the 1970s. A young woman (a wonderful Maggie Cheung) returns home to Hong Kong for her sister's wedding, after years studying and living in London. The trip triggers dormant sentiments and conflicts, especially between her and her mother, and the two set off on a trip to Japan in search of past and origins. A story of reconciliation and discovery, “Song of the Exile” is also about the many different Asian diasporas, the sense of belonging and perfectly embodies the moods of a population eternally trapped between ambivalent feelings toward the colonial administration and Mainland China. (Adriana Rosati)

5. Zodiac Killers (1991)

To start with, the plot doesn't kick in for 50 minutes. Now Hong Kong cinema doesn't usually flow in the tradition we are accustomed to in the West but even here it is just so slow to get going. Our problem from the outset is that the characters are just not likeable. Ming openly admits to a marriage of convenience to get into the Yakuza hierarchy. Ben is possibly the worst student you will meet and acts like a man-child throughout. As for Tit-lan, after leaving her sponsor who was mistreating her, she jumps into a relationship with a Yakuza and then after tragedy ensues, proceeds to involve Ben. In what was her final performance, Cherrie Chung is surprisingly annoying and again completely unlikable. (Ben Stykuc)

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6. Summer Snow (1995)

Ann Hui presents a number of social comments, most of which are represented by May's character, a woman in her forties who is part of an in-between generation, living in an era that is about to forget the blights of the war and the traditions that dominated that generation, but is not ready to adapt to the huge technological developments that are coming their way (Panos Kotzathanasis)

7. The Stuntwoman (1996)

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ˮ is at the same time portrait of a woman looking for her life path, and an insight into the Hong Kong action film industry. It captures that particular spirit of Hong Kong nostalgia with a dash of crude reality. Through the eyes of a China emigree and the crew newbie Ah Kam (Michelle Yeoh), “The Stuntwomanˮ lets us enter the family of action crew team lead by Tung (Sammo Hung). The camaraderie of the team members mixes with the long fingers of the “investors”, the dreams hit reality. The story by two writers, Kin Chung Chan and Man Keug Chan conveys the observant eye of Ann Hui who directs the film with a touch of documentary intimacy. (Krisitna Aschenbrennerova)

8. (1999)

Ann Hui directs a film that unfolds in a number of paths, occasionally intermingling, which are focused, though, around the history of activism in Hong Kong, and essentially the almost always troubled circumstances that dominated the area. That the accusations move both towards the British Government, who were the ones not granting rights to the , and the Chinese one, as the Tiananmen incident is also referred to in the movie, highlights this last aspect in the most evident fashion.  These factors are presented both through the lives of the protagonists and the many events that shaped their lives, but also through archival footage and the recurring performance mentioned in the beginning, resulting in a hybrid film that is equally a drama and a documentary, with the realism that dominates the activism aspect moving distinctly towards the second aspect. (Panos Kotzathanasis)

9. (2001)

On the one hand, you can read (and enjoy) “Visible Secret” as the genre blend mentioned before, but on the other hand there is something beyond the recognizable tropes many will undoubtedly recognize. What begins as a more or less typical story for horror delves more and more into a view of a world inhabited by the dead and ghosts. Interestingly, the majority of the ghosts Peter and June encounter do not come as a “jump scare” (with one notable exception to the rule), but are rather reminders of the past. Similar to the spirits she sees, June is also a haunted character, as emphasised by Su Qi's performance and also the writing. Much like Peter, the audience is drawn closer to this world of the dead which makes her distant and hard to figure out, even though you could dispute whether the conclusion to her character does her a disservice. (Rouven Linnarz)

10. (2002)

July Rhapsody Cheung and Lam

Although the premise of the movie is a bit soapy, Ann Hui's direction and Ivy Ho's writing actually elevate the material to a much higher level. One of the ways this is accomplished is the inclusion of poetry in the narrative, frequently appearing throughout the movie, as much as the Yangtze river as symbolism. Hui's love of Hong Kongese poetry is well documented, and was actually presented recently in her documentary “”, and in “July Rhapsody” actually finds one of its zeniths. (Panos Kotzathanasis).

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About the author

Panos Kotzathanasis

Panagiotis (Panos) Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer, specialized in Asian Cinema. He is the owner and administrator of Asian Movie Pulse, one of the biggest portals dealing with Asian cinema. He is a frequent writer in Hancinema, Taste of Cinema, and his texts can be found in a number of other publications including SIRP in Estonia, Film.sk in Slovakia, Asian Dialogue in the UK, Cinefil in Japan and Filmbuff in India.

Since 2019, he cooperates with Thessaloniki Cinematheque in Greece, curating various tributes to Asian cinema. He has participated, with video recordings and text, on a number of Asian movie releases, for Spectrum, Dekanalog and Error 4444. He has taken part as an expert on the Erasmus+ program, “Asian Cinema Education”, on the Asian Cinema Education International Journalism and Film Criticism Course.

Apart from a member of FIPRESCI and the Greek Cinema Critics Association, he is also a member of NETPAC, the Hellenic Film Academy and the Online Film Critics Association.

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