Ann Hui

This is a Chinese name; the family name is Hui.
Ann Hui

Ann Hui answering questions following a screening of The Way We Are at the Broadway Cinematheque in Yau Ma Tei.
Background information
Chinese name 許鞍華 (traditional)
Chinese name 许鞍华 (simplified)
Born (1947-05-23) 23 May 1947
Anshan, Liaoning
Years active 1979 - present

Ann Hui On-Wah, MBE (traditional Chinese: 許鞍華; simplified Chinese: 许鞍华; pinyin: Xǔ Ānhuá; Hepburn: Kyo Anka; born 23 May 1947)[1][2] is a Hong Kong actress, director, producer and occasional screenwriter. She is one of the most critically acclaimed filmmakers amongst the Hong Kong New Wave. She is known for her (at times) controversial films about social issues in Hong Kong.

Hui has won numerous awards for her films, including, Best Director and Best Picture at the Hong Kong Film Awards, and Best Film at the Asia Pacific Film Festival. She was honored for her lifetime accomplishments at the 2012 Asian Film Awards.

Early Life and education

On 23 May 1947, Ann Hui was born in Anshan, Liaoning province, Manchuria to a Chinese father and a Japanese mother. In 1952, she moved to Macau, then Hong Kong at the age of five and attended St. Paul's Convent School. Hui then received a Masters in English and comparative literature at the University of Hong Kong until 1972 and later, studied at the London Film School for two years. Before receiving her degree, Hui studied and did her thesis on the works of Alain Robbe-Grillet, a French writer and filmmaker.


When Hui returned to Hong Kong after her stay in London, she became the assistant to the prominent Chinese film director, King Hu. Her breakthrough directorial work began with several drama series and short documentaries on 16mm for the Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) television station. During 1977, Hui produced and directed half a dozen films for the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), a Hong Kong organization created to clean up government misconduct. Two of these films were so controversial that they had to be banned from airing. A year later, Hui directed three episodes Below the Lion Rock, which depicts the lives of people from Hong Kong, under the public broadcasting station, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). The most recognized episode of Hui’s is Boy from Vietnam (1978), which is the start of her "Vietnam trilogy."[3]

After a few years in the television industry, Hui finally directed her first feature-length film, The Secret (1979). In the 1980s, Hui’s career was growing on the international cinema circuit. The most popular films for that time were Eastern variations of Hollywood oriented gangster and action films. But Hui did not follow the trend and preferred to create more personal films. Many of her best films involved themes pertaining to cultural displacement. In particular, her central characters are often individuals who are forced to relocate to another country and shown to be struggling and learning to survive. Hui tends to explore the characters' reactions to different environments and their responses to their return home. Her best known works, which fall under this category, are The Story of Woo Viet (1981) and Boat People (1982) – the remaining two parts of her "Vietnam trilogy." Although Hui has directed some generic films, another common theme she works with is family conflict, such as in the film My American Grandson (1990).

One of her most personal work is Song of the Exile (1990), a semi-autobiographical film. The film depicts the story of a young woman, Cheung Hueyin returning to Hong Kong for her sisters wedding after studying film in London for a couple of years. The Hueyin and her mother, who is Japanese, do not seem to have a steady relationship. But as the film follows Hueyin’s journey to her mother’s hometown in Japan, Hueyin and her mother are forced to reexamine each other’s relationship, as both have experienced the issue of being uprooted from one’s own country.

In the 1990s, Hui’s work began to target more commercialized films. Her directing career has slowed down a bit, as she focused more on behind-the-scenes work for other filmmakers. However, the theme of displacement is still recurrent in most of her works. During the mid-1990s, Hui tried to start up a film project about the Tiananmen Square massacre and the reactions of Hong Kong citizens. But the project was never made due to the lack of investments and funding. The term Tiananmen Square massacre is no longer in use by the Chinese government, as it portrays a harsher image of the incident. It is now more recognized as the Tiananmen Square protests or the June Fourth Incident. Throughout her career, Hui has often taken chances to develop more intense and ambitious films, while making a name for herself.[4]

Hui has said in an interview about her desire to work on more socially conscious projects. She was aware of the difficulties in finding such projects that would both "attract investors as well as appeal to the public." Her goal was to "present something that is watchable and at the same time attractive" and allow the public to analyze the social issues involved. Although Hui is best known for making controversial films, the interview, in particular, was describing the horrors of increased crime and unemployment rates in Tin Shui Wai, Hong Kong. The two films of Hui’s that focus on these issues are The Way We Are (2008) and Night and Fog (2009), while maintaining a motif of displacement.[5]

Transition from television to film

Hui left television in 1979, making her first feature The Secret, a mystery thriller based on real life murder case and starring Taiwanese star Sylvia Chang. It was immediately hailed as an important film in the Hong Kong New Wave. The Spooky Bunch (1981) was her take on the ghost story genre, while The Story of Woo Viet (1981) continued her Vietnamese trilogy. Hui experimented with special effects and daring angles; her preoccupation with sensitive political and social issues is a recurrent feature in most of her subsequent films. Boat People (1982), the third part of her Vietnamese trilogy, is the most famous of her early films. It examines the plight of the Vietnamese after the Vietnam War.[6]

In the mid-1980s Hui continued her string of critically acclaimed works. Love in a Fallen City (1984) was based on a novella by Eileen Chang, and the two-part, ambitious wuxia adaptation of Louis Cha's first novel, The Book and the Sword, was divided into The Romance of Book and Sword (1987) and Princess Fragrance (1987). 1990 saw one of her most important works to date, the semi-autobiographical The Song of Exile. The film looks into the loss of identity, disorientation and despair faced by an exiled mother and a daughter faced with clashes in culture and historicity. As in the film, Hui's own mother was Japanese.

Post-hiatus work

After a brief hiatus in which she returned briefly to television production, Hui returned with Summer Snow (1995), about a middle-aged woman trying to cope with everyday family problems and an Alzheimer-inflicted father-in-law. In 1996, she was a member of the jury at the 46th Berlin International Film Festival.[7]

Eighteen Springs (1997) reprises another Eileen Chang novel. Her Ordinary Heroes (1999), about Chinese and Hong Kong political activists from 1970s to the 1990s, won the Best Feature at the Golden Horse Awards.

In 2002, her July Rhapsody, the companion film to Summer Snow and about a middle-aged male teacher facing a mid-life crisis, was released to good reviews in Hong Kong and elsewhere. Her film, Jade Goddess of Mercy (2003), starring Zhao Wei and Nicholas Tse, was adapted from a novel from Chinese writer Hai Yan.

In 2008, Hui directed the highly acclaimed domestic drama, The Way We Are, which was then followed up by Night and Fog. In an interview with Muse Magazine, Hui explains how she sees the two films as about something uniquely Hong Kong: '(on Night and Fog) I think that this film can represent something; it can express a kind of feeling about the middle and lower class, and maybe even Hong Kong as a whole. Everyone can eat at McDonald's or shop at malls. That's a way of life, but spiritually, there's dissatisfaction, especially with families on welfare. They don't really have any worries about life, but there's an unspeakable feeling of depression.'[8]

A Simple Life (2011) premiered at the 68th Venice International Film Festival where it was nominated for the Golden Lion. The film centers around the relationship of two characters, Ah Tao (Deanie Ip) and Roger (Andy Lau). It is not a love story, but rather a tale about a master and his long-time servant and was based on the relationship producer Roger Lee had with his servant. The film was chosen as Hong Kong's submission to the Academy Awards but did not make the shortlist.[9]

Hui's 2014 film The Golden Era premiered Out of Competition at the 71st Venice International Film Festival. The film was a biopic based on the lives of writers Xiao Hong and Xiao Jun. Tang Wei and Feng Shaofeng starred.


Year Title Contribution Notes
1978 Below the Lion Rock: From Vietnam; Bridge; Road. Director "From Vietnam" - Hui's first part to her "Vietnam trilogy,"
1979 The Secret Director Hui's first feature film. The suspense drama about a real-life double murder.
1980 The Spooky Bunch Director A satiric film about a Cantonese opera company that must go to Cheung Chau to perform for a wealthy man. However, the company soon learns that the man is being haunted by a ghost.
1981 The Story of Woo Viet Director Starring Chow Yun-fat, the film is Hui's second part to her "Vietnam trilogy," which follows the story of a South Vietnamese refugee in Hong Kong. This film was one of the first political Hong Kong-made dramas. It was screened at the Director's Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival.
1981 Boat People Director The third installment of Hui's "Vietnam trilogy." Andy Lau plays one of several Vietnam refugees, who are forced to flee to Hong Kong. The film was an Official Selection at Cannes and Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards
1984 Love in a Fallen City Director Taking place just before the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, a young man pursues an introverted divorcee.
1986 The Romance of Book and Sword Director/Writer The first part of Hui's Qing Dynasty epic. The film is based on a novel from an old folk's tale. Unlike most of Hui's films, this film falls under the genre of martial-arts and action/adventure.
1987 Princess Fragrance Director The second part of Hui's Qing Dynasty epic. The film journeys through the final half of the Louis Cha's novel The Book and the Sword.
1988 Starry Is the Night Director A school counselor has an affair with a young student and parallels a past affair the counselor had with her professor.[10]
1990 Song of the Exile Director A film loosely based on Hui's experience of returning to Hong Kong after her time in London. The film also reflects the female protagonist's relationship with her Japanese mother.
1990 The Swordsman (uncredited) Director
1990 My American Grandson Director An elderly Chinese man becomes the caretaker of his 12-year-old grandson. The film compares the differences of Eastern and Western culture, and analyzes how American born Chinese disassociates themselves their native culture.
1991 Zodiac Killers Director Also starring Andy Lau, the crime and drama filled film takes place in Tokyo with a documentary style.[11]
1993 Boy and His Hero Director
1995 Summer Snow Director A comedy-drama about a working woman and her husband and son. The woman must care for her father-in-law, whom she had never gotten along with. The film centers around the woman's situation and how she copes with her father-in-law's Alzheimer's. The film has received several awards.
1996 The Stunt Woman Director The melodrama about a stunt woman (Michelle Yeoh), who is struggling in Hong Kong's film industry. The film is most famous for Yeoh's brush with death, as she misjudged an 18-foot leap from a bridge to a truck.
1997 Eighteen Springs Director A period film of 1930s Shanghai, where a young woman falls in love with a factory worker. However, things get complicated when the factory worker's parents have arranged a marriage for him.
1997 As Time Goes By Director/Writer A man regrets his wish for time to speed up when it comes true. He begins to quickly realize the pitfall of rushing through life.
1999 Ordinary Heroes Director/Producer The film revolves around the lives of social reform activists in Hong Kong. It competed at the 49th International Berlin Film Festival in 1999.
2001 Visible Secret Director/Producer A horror-comedy film, in which a woman, June, believes she can see ghosts.
2002 July Rhapsody Director/Producer The film follows the story of a high school teacher with a good life and family. However, the film shows the deterioration of relationships and marriages when a young student falls in love with the teacher.
2003 Jade Goddess of Mercy Director The film is an adaptation of a popular book that describes the lives of everyday police men. The protagonist is a female police officer, who must deal with choices between three men in her life and her career.
2006 The Postmodern Life of My Aunt Director/Writer A woman in her sixties discovers she is falling behind in the times, as she loses her job as an English tutor. Throughout the film, several people (including her own nephew) take advantage of her naiveté, which leaves her penniless.
2008 The Way We Are Director This drama tells the story of a working woman, Kwai, who must take care of her teenage son and ailing mother. Kwai befriends an older woman, and the two learn to help each other during a time where employment is scarce and any kind of assistance is highly appreciated.
2009 Night and Fog Director/Producer A family struggles in Tin Shui Wai, while marriage between husband and wife turns fatal. There is no social, physical, or emotional escape for the wife, who is an immigrant to Hong Kong, of an abusive husband.
2010 All About Love Director/Producer The film portrays the difficulty and challenges in which lesbians in Hong Kong must face. It also explores the idea of the queer women starting families using non-traditional methods.
2011 A Simple Life Director/Producer A story about an elderly female servant, who has watched over a family for many generations. Andy Lau is the only family member left in Hong Kong, and the film follows the relationship between servant and master.
2012 Beautiful 2012 Director
2014 The Golden Era Director

Filmography as actress

Ann Hui has appeared mostly in cameo in several films:

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Film Result
19832nd Hong Kong Film AwardsBest DirectorBoat PeopleWon
Best PictureWon
19887th Hong Kong Film AwardsBest DirectorThe Romance of Book & SwordNominated
1990Asia Pacific Film FestivalBest FilmSong of the ExileWon
Rimini FestivalBest FilmNominated
Golden Horse Film Festival and AwardsBest FilmNominated
199110th Hong Kong Film AwardsBest DirectorNominated
Best PictureNominated
199545th Berlin International Film Festival[12]Golden BearSummer SnowNominated
Golden Horse Film Festival and AwardsBest FilmWon
Golden Bauhinia AwardsBest DirectorWon
Best PictureWon
Hong Kong Film Critics SocietyBest PictureWon
Créteil International Women's Film FestivalBest FilmWon
68th Academy AwardsBest Foreign Language FilmNot Nominated
199615th Hong Kong Film AwardsBest DirectorWon
Best PictureWon
199747th Berlin International Film Festival[13]Berlinale Camera N/A Won
Order of the British EmpireAwarded MBE (Member of British Empire)
199936th Golden Horse AwardsBest DirectorOrdinary HeroesWon
72nd Academy AwardsBest Foreign Language FilmNot Nominated
49th Berlin International Film Festival[14] Golden BearNominated
200019th Hong Kong Film AwardsBest DirectorNominated
20018th Hong Kong Film Critics Society AwardsBest DirectorVisible SecretWon
200221st Hong Kong Film AwardsBest DirectorNominated
July RhapsodyNominated
200426th Moscow International Film Festival[15]Golden GeorgeJade Goddess of MercyNominated
Verona Film Festival Audience AwardWon
Best FilmNominated
200714th Hong Kong Film Critics Society AwardsBest DirectorThe Postmodern Life of My AuntWon
200827th Hong Kong Film AwardsBest DirectorNominated
15th Hong Kong Film Critics Society AwardsBest DirectorThe Way We AreWon
200928th Hong Kong Film AwardsBest DirectorWon
201029th Hong Kong Film AwardsBest DirectorNight and FogNominated
201148th Golden Horse AwardsBest DirectorA Simple LifeWon
84th Academy AwardsBest Foreign Language FilmNot Nominated
201231st Hong Kong Film AwardsBest DirectorWon
Hong Kong International Film FestivalLifetime Achievement Award[16]
Asian Film AwardsHonored for life's work[16]
201534th Hong Kong Film AwardsBest DirectorThe Golden EraWon
Best FilmWon

Further reading

See also


  1. Freda Freiberg (4 October 2002). "Border Crossings: Ann Hui's cinema". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  2. Futures of Chinese Cinema: Technologies and Temporalities in Chinese Screen ... - Olivia Khoo, Sean Metzger - Google Books. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  3. "Ann Hui". The New York Times.
  4. "Ann Hui Films | Ann Hui Filmography | Ann Hui Biography | Ann Hui Career | Ann Hui Awards | Film Director | Movie Director | Film Directors | Movie Directors | Filmmaker". 23 May 1947. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  5. "Director Ann Hui (許鞍華) completes Tin Shui Wai diptych". YouTube. 22 April 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  6. Stuart Whitmore (30 November 2000). "Hong Kong director Ann Hui hits the festival circuit with her Ordinary Heroes". Asiaweek. CNN. Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
  7. "Berlinale: 1996 Juries". Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  8. Ma, Kevin (May 2009). "The Life and Times of Ann Hui". Muse Magazine (28): 19.
  9. Chu, Karen. "Hong Kong Chooses Ann Hui's 'A Simple Life' for Oscar Foreign Language Submission". Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  10. Brian. "Starry is the Night". Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  11. "Zodiac Killers". Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  12. "Berlinale: 1995 Programme". Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  13. "Berlinale: 1997 Prize Winners". Retrieved 14 January 2012.
  14. "Berlinale: 1999 Programme". Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  15. "26th Moscow International Film Festival (2004)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 3 April 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  16. 1 2 "Hong Kong director Ann Hui honoured for life's work". Channel NewsAsia. 18 March 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2012.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ann Hui.
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Golden Bauhinia Awards for Best Director
for Summer Snow
Succeeded by
Peter Chan
for Comrades, Almost a Love Story
Preceded by
Wong Kar-wai
for In the Mood for Love
Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards for Best Director
for Visible Secret
Succeeded by
Peter Chan
for Three
Preceded by
Johnnie To
for Exiled
Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards for Best Director
for The Postmodern Life of My Aunt
Succeeded by
Ann Hui
for The Way We Are
Preceded by
Ann Hui
for The Postmodern Life of My Aunt
Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards for Best Director
for The Way We Are
Succeeded by
Alan Mak, Felix Chong
for Overheard
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