An interview with Vincent Chui

This article has been published as part of the Asian Film Festival Berlin 2017.
For further infor­mation please visit the website of the fes­tival.

Ying e Chi, based in Hong Kong, has been coope­rating with the Asian Film Festival Berlin since 2009. For the 2017 edition of the AFFB “Fig” and “Out of Frame” will be screened as result of this coope­ration.

1. You have been co-directing with Ann Hui before, and for “Fig” you used a script written by Lou Shiu-Wa, who also wrote the script for “The Way We Are”(2008) by Ann Hui. How did you deal with the chal­lenge of somehow walking in her footsteps and on the other hand finding your own film lan­guage for “Fig”?

Ann Hui is always my favorite director in Hong Kong. Not only because she’s been showing humanity in her films but in real life as well. I was actually one of the actors in “The way we are”. Lou Shiu Wa showed me several scripts after I met her on the set. We did pull one short film tog­ether and it came out well. When I received the script of “Fig”, I understood that it would be easy to become a secondary version of “The way we are”. I appre­ciate the sub­t­leness of Ann very much and I know that I won’t be able to accom­plish anything like that. Therefore, I inten­sified the emotion in “Fig” instead. I also tried to create the humor and asked the prot­agonist to try some offbeat acting. However, at the end I found I somehow sacrifice the che­mistry between the actors and might disap­point some of the audience.

2. In “Fig” you are appar­ently focusing on inter­sec­tions of gender and social class in Hong Kong and Macau. Is this a topic which is included in all your works, or was this focus spe­ci­fi­cally chosen for this feature?

I have made 5 fea­tures films so far. Two of them were com­mercial genre films that I barely con­trolled the themes. The other two inde­pendent films were initiated by me with an ori­ginal idea. Lou had the idea of “Fig” and wrote the full script all by herself. As the director, I humbly tried to transform it into images. During the process, I guess my thoughts would assi­milate into the ori­ginal script unin­ten­tio­nally. I did concern dif­ferent social classes and like to focus on women cha­racters in my pre­vious films. Even “Fig” wasn’t my idea, I believe that I did care about the gender and social class issue all the way.

3. Are you cur­r­ently working on a new film project, if yes, what is the theme/story behind it?

I am working on a script called “Full House at mid­night”. It will be a romantic ghost story with a nost­algia theme about the disap­pearance of the old cinemas and com­munity. At the same time, I am pro­ducing two films for two first-time directors. One is a docu­mentary about a social activist who advo­cates localism. The other is a fiction about the haze of the young people after the umbrella movement.

4. You are not only well-known as an inde­pendent film director, but also as founder of the non-profit orga­niz­ation Ying e Chi. What was your moti­vation to start Ying e Chi? What are your current pro­jects there? And how has your work there changed over the years?

We started Ying E Chi 20 years ago was to aim at pro­moting Hong Kong inde­pendent films. We curate the Hong Kong Independent films fes­tival every years and showing local and overseas (mainly Chinese speaking) inde­pendent films irre­gu­larly in cinemas and dif­ferent venues. Due to the change of tech­nology, we are able to par­ti­cipate in pro­ducing films too. We have crowd funded for 5 short films and finished a docu­mentary (Yellowing) through a workshop in recent years.

5. Is your work as film director and repre­sen­tative of Ying e Chi influ­enced by current poli­tical deve­lo­p­ments in Hong Kong?

I myself am getting a little bit fed up by the poli­tical issue. I made “Leaving in sorrow” in 2000 to capture the scene before and after the han­dover. I also finished “Three narrow gates” (2008) which was inspired by the protest against the bill of basic law 23 article in 1 July, 2003. After making these two films, I found myself getting too close to the poli­tical issue that I could hardly see the humanity behind it. I would rather focus on the emotion and rela­ti­onship of the people in this par­ti­cular moment of Hong Kong. As the repre­sen­tative of Ying E Chi, I like to see the young filmmakers show their con­cerns about Hong Kong. Besides, they sell well. However, the freedom of expression is under threat recently and it’s worth further dis­cussion.

Short bio­graphy:

Vincent Chui, born 1965, returned to Hong Kong after gra­duating from the Film School of Loyola Marymount University, and worked in film and tele­vision. He has been involved in inde­pendent films since 1993, and founded Ying E Chi in 1997 with other inde­pendent filmmakers to promote and dis­tribute Hong Kong inde­pendent movies. He also co-directed the docu­mentary As Time Goes By with Ann Hui in the same year. His debut feature film Leaving in Sorrow (2001) was fol­lowed by Fear of Intimacy (2004) and Three Narrow Gates(2008). All his feature films were screened suc­cess­fully at inter­na­tional film­fes­tivals.

At the Asian Film Festival Berlin 2017 his fiction film “Fig” will be shown on Wednesday, 11.10., 19h