Ann Hui

Article Bio Works Projects
emigration, gender, identity, prostitution, war
Film (comedy, documentary, feature film, historical film)
Asia, Eastern
Hong Kong (China)
created on:
May 23, 2003
last changed on:
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Ann Hui
Ann Hui © Director_AnnHui.html


Securing evidence and seeking identity in Hongkong

Cultural identity and inner contradictions are the themes of the internationally acclaimed filmmaker and producer, Ann Hui, whose focus concentrates on China of the present and the past. At the end of the 1970s and through the 80s she represented the creative avant-garde alongside Yim Ho and Allen Fong. Her ambitious projects contrasted starkly with the bland contents of popular action films, thrillers and comedies. Censorship and lack of public recognition hampered work in the Crown Colony. Nevertheless, by remaining dedicated to her ideals for twenty years, Ann Hui´s work received international recognition and prizes at numerous festivals. Ann Hui was born in 1947 in Anshan, Manchuria and has lived in Hong Kong since 1952.
Every two years the "number one export item" (cahiers du cinéma, 1984), Ann Hui, presents a new film. Since her debut with "Fengjie" /"The Secret" in 1979, women have played a central role in Ann Hui´s films. She herself denies that this has any particular significance, and rejects being labelled a feminist. In her eyes the protagonist in her films is the city of Hong Kong which offers plenty of material. She sees Hong Kong as a city for survival training, a society without guarantees.

Her second feature film "Zhuang Dao Zheng" / "The Spooky Bunch" (1980) focuses on opera singers and ghosts. A year later Ann Hui turns to topical themes with "Huyue de Gushi" / "The Story of Woo Viet" (1981), a film about a former South Vietnamese soldier who flees to Hong Kong on his way to his goal in America. In Hong Kong he falls in love with the beautiful Vietnamese girl Li, who also wants to go to America. During a stopover in the Philippines Li is sold as a prostitute.

1982 sees the release of "Tuoben Nuhai" / "Boat People", a celebrated political film which also brings Ann Hui recognition in Europe. A Japanese reporter travels to liberated Vietnam and is shocked at the reality he discovers. Ann Hui admits that at the time she made an anti-Communist and anti-Chinese film out of pure naivety. So, not surprisingly, the film disappeared in the locked cupboard of the Chinese censor.

In 1997 Ann Hui makes "Shun Jian En Chou Lou" / "The Romance of Book & Sword", based on a historical kung-fu novel about the wars of succession during the Quing dynasty. The film is realized as a typical martial arts movie using a huge number of extras. Since then Ann Hui has concentrated solely on stories that interest her personally and which she can lend her personal signature, such as "Xiatian De Xue" / "Summer Snow" (1994). In this story the protagonist May, a working mother of around forty, not only performs her role as a manager but also has to look after the family, including her extremely aggressive father-in-law who suffers from Alzheimer´s disease.

The famous action film star Michelle Khan plays the leading part in "Ah Kam" / "The Stunt Woman" (1996). Ann Hui shows how kung-fu film trash production function and what happens when the female protagonist drops out after a severe accident. Martial arts expert Ah Kham from China tries her luck in the Hong Kong film industry but has little chance of penetrating this closed shop without any personal contacts. Master Tung, an experienced stuntman, is her only source of support. When Tung is killed in a confrontation with a youth gang, Ah Kam takes care of his son and decides to avenge Tung´s death.

In 1990 Ann Hui makes a film with an autobiographical touch. In "Ke Tu Chin Hen" / "Song of Exile" the depiction of the protagonist Hueyin reflects Ann Hui´s own experiences: a strict grandmother; life in a convent school; a Chinese father and a Japanese mother who is met with hostility; a childhood spent with the grandparents in Macao; the return from London to the dismal interiors of colonial buildings; identity conflicts in the war-torn and divided Chinese territories.

Ann Hui characteristically films this story with great care and precision because the censor still decides whether a film can be released. Her next film "Shanghai Jiaqi" / "My American Grandson" (1991) is a Chinese-Taiwanese co-production and is only freed for release after major cuts demanded by the Chinese authorities. This happens despite Ann Hui´s positive depiction of underdeveloped mainland China which still offers time for leisure and humanity in contrast to the pace of progress and alienation in Taiwan.

In 1999 Ann Hui is invited, as on numerous previous occasions, to the Berlin Film Festival where her film "Qian Yan Wan Yu" / "Ordinary Heroes" enters the competition. The film tells the story of Sow who flees to a psychiatric clinic after suffering a complete loss of memory. In flashbacks the film shows the interweaving of politics, love and violence in Peking´s Tienemen Square. At the "Hong Kong Film Awards" it receives the best film prize, as did "Summer Snow" (1996) before.

Events at the HKW:
Sunday, 4 April 1993
Tuesday, 6 April 1993
Children´s cinema
Foreign cultures in children´s films
Shanghai Jiaqi / My American Grandson
Organiser: Haus der Kulturen der Welt

Wednesday, 7 April 1993
Wednesday Cinema
Ketu Quiuhen / Song of the Exile
Organiser: Haus der Kulturen der Welt
Author: Gabriele Gillner 


Ann Hui was born 23 May 1947 in Anshan, Manchuria and has lived in Hong Kong since 1952. She studied English and comparative Literature until 1972 followed by two years at the London Film School.
She then became assistant director to King Hu. From the mid-seventies onwards she made television series and documentaries. Ann Hui made her feature film debut in 1979. She now lives in Hong Kong - without an office, desk or fax: "I live with the files containing my next project under my arm."


Tin shui wai dik yat yu ye / The Way We Are

Film / TV,

Yi Ma De Hou Xian Dai Sheng Huo / The Postmodern Life of My Aunt

Film / TV,

Pinyin: Yu Guân Yîn / Jade Goddess of Mercy

Film / TV,

Laam yan sei sap /July Rhapsody

Film / TV,

Youling Renjian / Visible Secret

Film / TV,

Qian Yan Wan Yu / Ordinary Heroes

Film / TV,

Bang Sheng Yuan / As Time Goes By

Film / TV,

Ya Pian Zhan Zheng

Film / TV,
Director: Xie Jin, Associate Producer

Ah Kam / The Stunt Woman

Film / TV,

Xiatian De Xue / Summer Snow

Film / TV,

Tian Guo Ni Zi

Film / TV,
Director: Yim Ho, Executive Producer

Jidau Zhuizhong / Zodiac Killer

Film / TV,

Shanghai Jiaqi / My American Grandson

Film / TV,

Ke Tu Chin Hen / Song of the Exile

Film / TV,

Jiinwan Xinguang Canlan / Starry is in The Night

Film / TV,

Shun Jian En Chou Lou / The Romance of Book & Sword

Film / TV,

Quing Cheng Zhi Lian / Love in a Fallen City

Film / TV,

Tuoben Nuhai / Boat People

Film / TV,

Huye De Gushi / The Story of Woo Viet

Film / TV,

Zhuang Dao Zheng / The Spooky Bunch

Film / TV,

Fengjie / The Secret

Film / TV,


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

Festival of Vision: Hongkong – Berlin

(27 July 00 - 10 September 00)