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Hong Kong Heroines at Five Flavours

21 September 2023
Comrades, Almost a Love Story, dir. Peter Chan

Female characters, the long-understated power of Hong Kong cinema, are the focus of this year's Five Flavours section Hong Kong Heroines. From spectacular action films to powerful social dramas, this review is an homage to the brilliant actresses and their most ground-breaking roles.

The section Hong Kong Heroines is financed by Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office, Berlin.

Hong Kong cinema is associated with action films which most often bring to mind male protagonists. Most undeservedly so since, thanks to the characteristics of Hong Kong martial arts films, women have been successfully surmounting their male counterparts with training, agility, and wits in them for many decades. The masters, such as King Hu and Tsui Hark, were well-aware of it. They were among the ones who discovered outstanding artists whose roles were ahead of their times and set out new directions for the development of popular cinema.

Hong Kong is not just about action cinema, but also brilliant comedies and dramas, and sharp tales with social overtones, in which fascinating, complex female characters are also present. The Hong Kong Heroines section brings back strong heroines and the great roles of stars, including Cheng Pei-pei, Sylvia Chang, Cherry Ngan, and Maggie Cheung (in the brilliant "Comrades: Almost A Love Story," not nearly popular enough in Poland). The section presents Hong Kong cinema from the 1960s till the present from the perspective of women – from warriors with swords to the heroines of the everyday.

Comrades: Almost A Love Story 

Tian mi mi

dir. Peter Ho-Sun Chan

Hong Kong 1996, 118'

[cinema only]

When Jun comes from China to Hong Kong, Qiao is already there. The self-confident girl has a job at a McDonald's, a roguish smile, and a clear vision of her future. She already knows how to navigate the urban labyrinth, while Jun is still learning its topography. Their joint migrant experience and the need for closeness drive the two to spend more and more time with each other. Do they have a chance for a future together?

This full-blooded melodrama, spiced up with elements of a romantic comedy, is one of the most beautiful love stories of contemporary cinema. Maggie Cheung shines in the role of Qiao, and Christopher Doyle, Wong Kar Wai's cinematographer of choice, appears on the screen in an autobiographical episode. The city is a character in its own right, both as a pitfall for the protagonists, and as their biggest life chance.

Come Drink With Me

Da zui xia

dir. King Hu

Hong Kong 1966, 91'

[cinema + online]

A general's son is kidnapped by a gang demanding the freeing of their leader within five days. The politician refuses to accept the terms of the deal and sends his daughter, Golden Swallow, to find the bandits and free her brother. She is faced with quite a challenge, but she is by no means helpless. Those who stand in her way quickly realize they are up against a perfectly trained warrior.

The collaboration between Hu and the legendary Shaw Brothers Studio is a brilliant, fast-paced wuxia spectacle, made up of colorful, showstopping frames. It dazzles with the choreography of the fight scenes, but mostly with Cheng Pei-pei whose breakthrough role proved that women warriors can easily go up against their male opponents.

The Way We Dance

Kwong mo pai

dir. Adam Wong

Hong Kong 2013, 110'

[cinema + online]

Fleur makes tofu in her parents' shop, but she wants more from life. She is a brilliant dancer, and the first days at the university are her chance to make her big dreams come true. When she storms her way into BombA, a strong hip hop crew, it looks like everything is going according to plan. But, as usual, life turns out to be more complicated.

A clash of street dance, tai chi, kung fu, and parkour results in an explosive mix filled with positive energy, fantastic music, spectacular choreography, and the show-stopping Cherry Ngan in the center of the story, whizzing through the screen like a real-life comet.

A Light Never Goes Out

Dang fo laan saan

dir. Anastasia Tsang

Hong Kong 2022, 103'

[cinema + online]

For years, Bill's greatest passion and profession was crafting neon signs using traditional methods, recently replaced by cheaper LED lights. When he dies, his wife Mei-hsiang decides to step into her husband's workshop and continue his legacy by finishing his last project. Can she and Bill's apprentice revive the iconic sign that has been lighting up the city for decades?

"A Light Never Goes Out" is an intimate love ode starring the icons of Hong Kong cinema, Sylvia Chang and Simon Yam, and a delicate poem about the city long known for the neon signs flooding its streets with characteristic, deeply saturated colors.

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