Ann Hui is an acclaimed film director based in Hong Kong. She has a long list of films under her belt, and in a recent one on one interview with her she told me that her trademark is having no trademark, Hui is great at telling stories about women. For the most part, her main characters are working-class women.
This time, Hui traded aprons for business suits. In All About Love two middle class women fall in love. That’s right. Hui made a project involving a theme very few seem to tackle — the same-sex thing. I recently talked to her about her latest movie, her inspirations and romantic-comedies. Check out my interview with Ann Hui below.
Many of your films revolve around a female main character. What attracts you to make films about the lives of women?
AH: It’s not a sort of deliberate choice saying that I will make films about women, how those stories draw me to them is maybe because I’m a woman. I thought it was interesting and I am able to do it better than some of the films dealing with men.
What brought you to make a film about two women that fall in-love?
Ann Hui: Well, I’ve seen a number of films about gays and lesbians. They usually either deal with how they are being oppressed by society or they discuss this part and then talk about them as if they are a regular couple. I think in this story they are both. Talking about unconventional relationships, how unconventional it is and the kind of discrimination, but at the same time it also addresses to some of the deficiency in some universal human virtue such as perseverance and loyalty and love. I think it’s got both. It’s more interesting for me.
What were the challenges in making a movie like this?
AH: For one thing, I’m not a lesbian. I’m 63-years-old. There might be a generation gap I feel that. I think that trying to understand them is too easy. It’s not a feeling but a rational understanding. This might tell in the shooting. At the same time, I also worry because why do I worry about shooting lesbians when I am not a lesbian. I suspect there is some discrimination even in this special care like I don’t need to be a killer to shoot a killer. Why do I worry that I’m not able to show lesbians not being one.
There’s been movies like Brokeback Mountain that have broken into the mainstream, but there still aren’t a decent amount of movies that deal with similar types of romances. What is the situation in Hong Kong? Are they open about this in the film industry?
AH: During our research we got very friendly with a lot of lesbian friends. They seem to be having a very good time. They have very good jobs. They have secure relationships with the same sex and they are very knowledgeable. They travel. They are concerned with things like social issues. They seem to be actually better off than the average citizen. This is my impression, opting for personal choice in life and also show that they are people with more character and actually they have better education and finer attributes than the ordinary people, in fact. When the film is shown I just have that feeling that the society in Hong Kong is not comfortable talking about these issues openly. Vivian Chaw was cast as a lesbian, Anita, and she use to be a kind of symbol of purity. 20-years ago she use to be dream girl of adolescence. I think they don’t go to see this movie because she’s cast in such a role. Maybe I didn’t do it well so that’s it’s not good for watching, but I don’t think it’s that simple.
Although All About Love deals with a touchy subject, this seems to me more of a comedy?
AH: I feel that I actually I’ve been trying my hardest, in this film to make it lighter than dramatic — still having more elements of realism than the romantic comedy, I don’t know whether I succeeded. Even a note of fantasy. It’s very difficult to kick that key note all in the acting and in the staging of it. All the locations of it are real, even the extras are real people. At the same time it seems a little bit, hopefully it seems a little bit on the verge of a fantasy. I don’t know whether I managed that.
What is different about the way you direct films compared to other directors?
AH: I think my trait mark is that I have no trait mark. I do a lot of subjects and then I seem to be a hazard in choosing subjects and the I don’t do them quite quickly without any fashion. I sometimes shoot in the mainland.
What are some of the differences and similarities between All About Love and your previous projects?
AH: This is similar because it’s also about contemporary subject. Peoples interactions in life nowadays, but it’s different because it deals with different class. Usually I deal with the working class, poorer people. This time it’s with middle class. People who work in offices as lawyers. It was quite different.
What are you doing next?
AH: Next subject, I trying to do something about old age, which is much nearer my age. Much safer subject. We’re doing a script. We hope to start shooting next year.
What would you say was your overall intention in making All About Love?
AH: My overall intention it to — because I feel that the subject is a challenge — I feel the subject is right and then secondly I also want to shoot, try and do a comedy, I’ve never done a comedy before. I’m keen to shoot the more middle class of Hong Kong, central. And so all these few things together.
All About Love is still looking for distribution, keep an eye out for it in coming months!