By Hanna Rantala
VENICE – Director Ann Hui has described her “fantastic struggle” to make her new film “Love After Love” as pro-democracy protests broke out in her home Hong Kong and then the global pandemic all but halted travel.
Hui, 73, will be awarded a Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement by the Venice Film Festival on Tuesday. Alberto Barbera, the festival’s director, called her “one of Asia’s most respected, prolific, and versatile directors.”
Her new film is a tale of tortuous love and moral depravity within Hong Kong’s high society before World War Two. Based on a short story by Eileen Chang, it centres on a young Shanghai schoolgirl who seeks help from a wealthy aunt.
Moving in with the temperamental and disillusioned former concubine, she gets sucked into her world of fancy parties, and ambiguous relations with rich, older men. She then falls in love with a troubled playboy. “When we first finished shooting, the protest movement in Hong Kong started … every day we were hearing the tear gas from downstairs and we could even smell it and I had to return home every night through the subway,” Hui said.
After five months of working through the protests, the pandemic then complicated post-production work, leaving the team relying on zoom meetings.
“We’ve hardly met and we’ve done it and it was, how to call it? Fantastic struggle.”
“It’s a kind of a moving example of how film people work regardless of crossfires and everything, and we’ve tried our best to make the film despite great difficulties.”
Hui has directed almost 30 feature films including “Boat People”, “Ordinary Heroes” and “The Golden Era.”
Barbera said Hui recounts with sensitivity “individual stories that interweave with important social themes such as those of refugees, the marginalized, and the elderly.”
Hui said she wanted to leave it for her work to convey her political views.
“I think it’s better for me not to comment too much on the situation itself because this film is invested by Chinese companies and they have allowed us to shoot this movie with immense moral complexity and it has passed censorship with very minor cuts,” Hui said.