Tong Tik-sang Centenary Film Retrospective

It’s the centenary of the playwright Tong Tik-sang birth on the 18th June and in celebration the Hong Kong Film Archive will host 27 films adapted from his operatic works, or directed/written by Tong himself. Entitled A Century of Operatic Treasures in Film – A Tribute to Tong Tik-sang on His 100th Birth Anniversary the retrospective is split into four themes of ‘Traces of Snow in Tong’s Songs’, ‘Old Scripts Revisited’, ‘Lovesick Pairs’ and ‘Whodunits’ which lend an eclectic look at Tong’s legacy and runs from 27 May to 25 August.

Born in 1917 as Tong Kong-nin, Tong Tik-sang (1917-1959) was a playwrighting genius whose ingenuity in writing and directing significantly shaped Cantonese opera’s development and inspired Hong Kong cinema. In 1937, he came to Hong Kong to join the Kok Sin Sing Opera Troupe as a copyist, while also studying libretto writing from famed playwrights Fung Chi-fun and Mak Siu-ha and wrote his first Cantonese opera in 1938. From the 1940s onwards Tong wrote prolifically for both film and stage, penning over 400 operas during his career many of which have become timeless masterpieces that continue to impress today and form a significant part of Hong Kong’s cultural heritage.

‘Traces of Snow in Tong’s Songs’ is the main theme of the retrospective, with films featuring performances by Yam Kim-fai and Pak Suet-sin, who worked closely with Tong. Fairy In Drawing (畫裏天仙, 1957) is the signature romantic story played by the duo, in which lucid and lively music and lyrics by Tong breath life into Chinese folklore. The Naughty Couple (妻嬌郎更嬌, 1960), which touches on life and death in a light-hearted way, was the last film scripted by Tong before his passing. The melodrama Madam Wan (芸娘, 1960) sees good emerges from evil for a happy ending, thus following the classic manner of storytelling in most Chinese operas. Based on Tong’s original opera, As Luck Will Have It (運喜當頭, 1955) depicts the thoughts of ordinary folks in the vernacular and delivers some side-splitting humour.

Lee Tit’s directorship, Tong’s exquisite lyrics and Yam and Pak’s flawless performances shine through in the Cantonese opera film classic The Legend of Purple Hairpin (紫釵記, 1959). Unlike Tong’s recurring romances, the story structure of Butterfly and Red Pear Blossom (蝶影紅梨記, 1959) is original, and the lovers do not meet until the final scene. A Poor Girl (可憐女, 1959) follows dutiful concubine Pak, who upholds an unquenchable desire for truth and justice, even though she has been framed for murdering her own son. The Lotus’s Story (芙蓉傳, 1959) features Fu-yong, Poet Laureate of Jiangnan and a courageous woman ahead of her time, in which the sequence ‘Waiting for the Full Moon at the West Chamber’ is a great example of the romantic scenes played by Yam and Pak.

‘Old Scripts Revisited’ focuses on film adaptations of Tong’s period repertoires being placed in a more contemporary context. The Swallows’ Return (一年一度燕歸來, 1953) and Swallows Come Home (一年一度燕歸來, 1958) are based on the same Cantonese opera with the former a contemporary version and the latter a period work. Fong Yim-fun stars in both films, proving herself equally adept at both eras. Adapted from a period to a contemporary setting, Wealth Gone Like a Dream (十載繁華一夢銷, 1952) oozes human warmth and compassion, which makes a departure from Tong’s signature romantic libretti. The film marked the final on-screen appearance of Liu Hap-wai, known as “the head of the four comic masters”. Tong took reference from Hollywood film noir to direct Mysterious Murder (Part One / Part Two) (紅菱血 //下集, 1951) with a modern spin, in which the music is a hybrid of Cantonese opera music and Western orchestral music, highlighting a new attempt at adapting old scripts.

‘Lovesick Pairs’ presents some eternal stories of star-crossed lovers in Cantonese operatic gems. Adapted from Tong’s posthumous opera for the Sin Fung Ming Opera Troupe, Love in the Red Chamber (再世紅梅記, 1968) follows the romance between a scholar (Connie Chan Po-chu) and his lover (Nam Hung) being stymied by the murderously jealous prime mister (Leung Sing-po). Li Tit directed The Legend of Purple Hairpin (紫釵記, 1977) again with full cinematic treatment, this time featuring the young apprentices of Yam Kim-fai and Pak Suet-sin, namely Lung Kim Sung and Mui Suet-si, in which the signature sequence is masterfully crafted with elegant mise-en-scène and evolving atmospheres. The singing of Yam and Fong Yim-fun in Regret from the Spring Lantern and Feather Fan (春燈羽扇恨, 1959) mirrors the chain of obstacles often encountered in the way of love.

‘Whodunits’ features films about revealing culprits and righting wrongs, with Tong incorporating elements of mystery and suspense from the West into traditional Chinese stories. The Swallow’s Message (一年一度燕歸來, 1959) is notable for its intriguing plot twists, in which Tang Bik-wan is accused of having a secret affair with Law Kim-long and even of killing her husband. In Red Shoes Solves the Mystery Case (紅菱巧破無頭案, 1959), Poon Yat On kills his own wife to elope with Fung Wong Nui, and lays down a ruse to suggest Fung has been the victim. In A Smile of Woe (梨渦一笑九重寃 1952), the heroine (Fung, again) is wrongly convicted and gives birth to a son whilst in jail. Her son grows up and vows to exonerate his mother from the monstrous injustice. Gold-braided Fan (穿金寶扇, 1959) features Yam Kim-fai and Pak Suet-sin’s love story with twists and turns, in which Pak’s father annuls their matrimony and Pak is involved in a case of theft and murder. Fortunately she is vindicated and gets to reunite with Yam.

Professors Lau Yin-ping, Yu Siu-wah and Chan Sau-yan will review Tong’s creative career and achievements in a seminar entitled ‘The Cinematic and Operatic Art of Tong Tik-sang’ to be held at 4:30pm, 18 June at the HKFA Cinema.

A Century of Operatic Treasures in Film – A Tribute to Tong Tik-sang on His 100th Birth Anniversary

紅菱血 //下集 Mysterious Murder, Part One/Part Two (1951), 十載繁華一夢銷 Wealth Gone Like a Dream (1952), 梨渦一笑九重寃 A Smile of Woe (1952), 一年一度燕歸來 The Swallow’s Return (1953), 一樓風雪夜歸人 Return on a Snowy Night (1957),鴻運喜當頭 As Luck Will Have It (1955), 夜夜念奴嬌 Tonight and Every Night (1956), 畫裏天仙 Fairy In Drawing (1957), 一年一度燕歸來 Swallows Come Home (1958), 三審狀元妻 Three Trials of the Number One Scholar’s Wife (1958), 三年一哭二郎橋 Triennial Mourning on the Bridge (1959), 春燈羽扇恨 Regret from the Spring Lantern and Feather Fan (1959), 跨鳳乘龍 Happy Wedding (1959), 燕子啣來燕子箋 The Swallow’s Message (1959), 紅菱巧破無頭案 Red Shoes Solves the Mystery Case (1959), 穿金寶扇 Gold-braided Fan (1959), 枇杷巷口故人來 A Respectable Tutor (1959), 紫釵記 The Legend of Purple Hairpin (1959), 蝶影紅梨記 Butterfly and Red Pear Blossom (1959), 可憐女 A Poor Girl (1959), 獅吼記 The Lion’s Roar (1959), 芙蓉傳 The Lotus’s Story (1959), 芸娘 Madam Wan (1960), 妻嬌郎更嬌 The Naughty Couple (1960), 再世紅梅記 Love in the Red Chamber (1968), 紫釵記 The Legend of Purple Hairpin (1977)

All films are in Cantonese with Chinese subtitles for some lyrics only.

Local View Power 2017

A new year, while not wiping the slate, brings new opportunities. The Macao Cultural Centre‘s (CCM) annual Local View Power offers the chance for budding Directors and actors/actresses to flex their cinematic minds and engage their creative skills in one of three categories Documentary, Short-feature or Animation and see their ideas funded and appear on the silver screen.

The project has produced more than 90 films since 2007 with the CCM providing financial and technical support for local filmmakers who have the drive and desire to transform their ideas and visions into moving images.

The proposal submission deadline is 23 January, 2017 and more detailed information and the submission regulations can be found here

Early Cinematic Treasures

Eight early Hong Kong films will be screened from 11 February – 1 April at the Hong Kong Film Archive as part of the third instalment of the Early Cinematic Treasures Rediscovered series. The films in the series are: Rivals in Love (1939), The Blood-Stained Peach Blossom Fan (1940), The Evil Mind (1947), The Inscrutable Heart of Women (1947), Return of the Swallows (1948), A Poor Lover’s Tears (1948), The Birth of Kiddy Stone (1949) and To Kill the Love (1949).

An exhibition entitled Rediscovering Mak Siu-ha – A Talent of Multiple Trades will run concurrently showcasing Mak as a multi-talented Cantonese opera scriptwriter, composer and filmmaker who was active in the 1930s.

The two pre-war film, So Yee’s Rivals in Love (1939) and Mak Siu-ha’s The Blood-Stained Peach Blossom Fan (1940), are the only surviving prints of the two Cantonese directors’ early work and are immensely precious. In Rivals in Love, Tam Lan-hing is at once alluring and virtuous as a sacrificial mother who hopes to raise her daughter (Tsi Lo-lan) properly. However, after being adopted by an aunt, the daughter grows up to be a spoilt and vain brat. Placing Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan in the Chinese social context with patriotic save-our-country sentiments, the film showcases the contextual changes when adapting Western literature into an Eastern film.

The Blood-Stained Peach Blossom Fan focuses on a group of businessmen as their indifference to the war evolves to a devotion to saving their country. The film features an amazing sword-dance performed by Cheang Mang-ha, the wife of Tong Tik-sang.

Adapted from a newspaper serial by Ling Siu-sang, The Evil Mind‘s (1947) roller-coaster plot, depicts the erosion of humanity and social order after war. Ng Cho-fan turns from do-gooder to evil-doer and heads towards self-destruction, Wong Man-lei is an able policewoman who becomes a helpless woman, Siu Yin Fei plays an immaculate maiden who dies as a victim of assault, and upright teacher Lo Duen becomes blind and succumbs to the evil tricks of his students. The arrangement of the film also reflects the chaos and unrest that rattled the post-war Hong Kong film industry.

In But Fu‘s The Inscrutable Heart of Women (1947), Pak Yin plays a devoted wife who allows her husband to keep his lover, a songstress, as a concubine but later intends to kill her out of jealousy. Pak shines in a darker and more perverse role in a departure from her unusual persona repertoire. Director But Fu builds up the dramatic tension with liberal use of close-ups and consistent application of spatial contrast.

Return of the Swallows (1948) centres on a love triangle between a handsome heir (Sit Kok-sin) and two sisters (Siu Yin Fei and Tsi Lo Lin). A fantastic array of supporting actors is brought in as comic foils to flesh out and give context to the portrayal of hardship and woe of survival in the post-war era.

A Poor Lover’s Tears (1948) follows Pak Yin, who migrates from the Mainland and is employed as the personal secretary of a factory manager because of her appealing appearance. Adapted from a novel by Mong Wan, the film portrays Pak as a woman who does not believe in love, a rare persona in the Hong Kong cinema in the ‘40s, and carrying an unexpected storyline as well.

Featuring the gifted Cantonese opera star Yu Kai, The Birth of Kiddy Stone (1949) tells of Kiddy Stone, who transforms from a son of a destitute family suffering from bullying to a brave and heroic army general. The 10-year-old Yu displays his talents by excelling in a variety of theatrics, and thus became a box office draw with his playful character. The eclectic mix of special effect stone figures interspersed with Cantonese ditties and lyrics makes the film a delight to watch.

Chu Kea’s melodrama To Kill the Love (1949) is an adaptation of a newspaper serial by Yee Hung-sang. It follows two educated sisters (Pak Yin and Tsang Nam-sze) getting married to the same man. The husband who dares to fight for independence and gets rid of his family control is still unable to act according to his own will.

As part of the series the HKFA will also hold eight seminars and screen eight reference films to enhance the audience’s understanding of the atmosphere of the pre- and post-war productions, bringing about new dimensions in their cinematic experience. The seminars will be conducted in Cantonese by speakers including the programmer and researcher of the HKFA, scholars, film critics and researchers.

The reference films are Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925), Ernst Lubitsch’s classic silent film with live music accompaniment centring on an intricate emotional entanglement; The Legend of Lee Heung Kwan (1990), starring towering figures of Cantonese opera Hung Sin Nui and Law Ka-bo; Blood-stained Azaleas (1951), with Pak Yin playing a ruthless manipulator; Leave Her to Heaven (1945), a hybrid of Hollywood film noir, populist romance and family drama; The Sisters’ Tragic Love (1953), telling of two sisters falling in love with the same man; Children of Paradise (1945), following the love affairs between a leading theatre actress and the four men who love her in 19th century Paris; The Birth of Stone Child (1962), showcasing the acrobatic prowess of Cantonese opera masters Lam Kar-sing, Fung Wong Nui and Lan Chi Pak; and Blonde Venus (1932), featuring the bold and avant-garde Hollywood actress Marlene Dietrich.

Leave Her to Heaven and Blonde Venus are in English, Children of Paradise is in French, and all of the other films are in Cantonese. Lady Windermere’s Fan, Blonde Venus and Children of Paradise have English subtitles; Leave Her to Heaven, Return of the Swallows and A Poor Lover’s Tears have Chinese and English subtitles; and the other films are without subtitles.

Early Cinematic Treasures Rediscovered 3
Date: 11 February – 1 April, 2017
Venue: HK Film Archive
Tickets: $45 from Urbtix

Raise the Umbrellas – Fundraising Screening


Evans Chan‘s documentary Raise the Umbrellas explores the origin and impact of Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Movement through the inter-generational lenses of three post-Tiananmen democratic activists – Martin Lee, founder of the Hong Kong Democratic party; Benny Tai, Occupy Central initiator; and Joshua Wong, the sprightly student leader.

Alongside voices from unknown “umbrella mothers,” student occupiers (Yvonne Leung and Vivian Yip), star politicians (Emily Lau, and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok Hung, as well as the pro-Beijing heavyweight Jasper Tsang), prominent media professionals (Jimmy Lai, Cheong Ching, Philip Bowring), international scholars (Andrew Nathan, Arif Dirlik and Hung Ho-fung), and activist Canton-pop icons Denise Ho and Anthony Wong.

Driven by on-site footage of a major Asian metropolis riven by peaceful protest, Umbrellas reveals the Movement’s eco-awareness, gay activism, burgeoning localism and the sheer political risk for post-colonial Hong Kong’s universal-suffragist striving to define its autonomy within China.

There will be a post screening discussion: panelists will include Dr. Au Yeung Shing, Eric Ng Man Kei, Au Lung Yu, Dr. Lau Siu Lai

Raise the Umbrellas – Fundraising Screening
 7:30pm, 4 December, 2016
Where: HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity, Multi-media Theatre
How much: $1,200, $600, $300
More info: 
Tel: 2891 8482, 2891 8488, 9800 7169
Fax 2891 8483
Cheque payable to “Centre for Community Cultural Development Ltd”or bank-in slip (Bank of China: 012-694-10049720). Tickets are also available at CCCD, L205-208 JCCAC, 30 Pak Tin Street

Medecins Sans Frontieres Film Festival


The upcoming Medecins Sans Frontieres Film Festival is not a collection of pretty films – it is a self-promotional vehicle that looks to raise awareness and thence increase donations – that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch. Unlike Hollywood films, several of the documentaries in the festival feature real life heroes and heroines.

The five documentary films look at the reality of aid work, the daily dilemmas and choices that occur in the field. The documentaries are not complete stories, just snapshots of ongoing disasters and tragedies occurring across the globe. They will put into perspective the simple things that we take for granted in Hong Kong – for example clean running water is just a fantasy or movie image to many across the world.

There will be a panel discussion session with MSF field workers after each screening.

Sadly what none of the documentaries at the ‘festival’ address is the rampant corruption that occurs within charities from the harassment style of collection to how little of the money donated/collected actually goes towards aid projects. The vast majority gets used in administration, salaries, commission for raising money etc. Then there’s the corruption on the ground and the actual effectiveness of the programmes a charity provides…

Festival Films
Affliction – The Ebola outbreak in West Africa seen through the eyes of the local populations, village officials, aid workers, the sick and those who recovered. It is a story of fear and frustration, of stigma and disbelief, of grief but also of immense joy and courage.

MSF (Un)limited – uses original footage with commentary by MSF staff about atrocities and humanitarian crises that have occured since the founding of MSF in 1971.

Access to the Danger Zone – narrated by Daniel Day-Lewis about victims of war and their need for humanitarian aid. It describes the difficulties and dangers humanitarian organizations face in trying to provide help in the most dangerous places on earth.

Living in Emergency – in the war-zones of Liberia and Congo, four volunteers with Doctors Without Borders struggle to provide emergency medical care under extreme conditions.

Fire in the Blood – the story of how pharmaceutical companies and governments blocked access to low-cost AIDS drugs for countries in the years after 1996 – causing millions of unnecessary deaths – and the improbable group of people who decided to fight back. Particularly relevant given recent US news articles about how companies are massively increasing the price of drugs.

For tickets and screening schedule visit or contact 2959 4204.

MSF Film Festival
Date: 1-4 December, 2016
Venue: The Grand Cinema, Elements, Kowloon Station
Tickets: $130 (Free seating)

Doctor Strange Red Carpet – 13 October, 2016

DS_Tour_Red Carpet_019

The Doctor Strange red carpet event at Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza saw Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton in Hong Kong with Director Scott Derrickson to promote the new Marvel film – which is released locally on the 27 October.
Click any photo for more images

DS_Tour_Red Carpet_020

DS_Tour_Red Carpet_001

DS_Tour_Red Carpet_003


yellowing-october-2016The Umbrella Movement happened over two years ago when tens of thousands took to the streets of Hong Kong in a fight for democracy. Yellowing is a documentary that sheds light on the nameless, ordinary young people whose massed peaceful protest stunned the world.

The film is composed of 20 memorandums, each recording a different aspect of the movement, more of daily chores, that in the most realistic respect, made this seemingly unrealistic defiance possible. Where there is discord, may we bring harmony; and where there is despair, may we bring hope.
Director: Chan Tze Woon

Director: Chan Tze Woon
When: 15, 22, 29 October, 2016
HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity, Multi-Media Theatre
Tickets: $70 from Urbtix
More info:
In Cantonese with Chinese & English subtitles