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A Simple Life

Ann Hui

A Simple Life

Born in Liaoning province to a Japanese mother and Chinese father, Ann Hui, 64, lived in Macau until she was five and then moved with her family to Hong Kong. She studied at the London International Film School before returning to Hong Kong to start her career as a filmmaker, working first as a director in TVB, one of the city’s broadcasting networks. During that period, Hui made many TV serials and documentaries.

Why is she famous?

In 1990, Hui directed Song of the Exile, starring Maggie Cheung. The film, inspired by Hui’s own life, tells a story of disorientation and loss of identity as a young Chinese woman leaves her studies in London and comes back to Hong Kong to learn about her Japanese mother and her troubled childhood.

Since then Hui has covered topics as diverse as the Vietnamese boat people, Alzheimer’s disease and lesbianism. She has also experimented with various filming styles, including martial arts, adaptations of Eileen Chang novels (she wrote Lust, Caution) and thrillers. But she’s still best known for arty films that carry her signature documentary-style touch.

Why is she in the news?

Her latest film A Simple Life has enjoyed widespread acclaim. It is a heart-warming tale about the relationship between a young Hong Kong man and the servant who raised him. Deanie Ip, who plays the servant, won the Best Actress Award at the 68th Venice International Film Festival last year, beating Oscar-winning actresses Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet among others.

And this week, the art-house drama also won Best Picture at the Hong Kong Film Awards, taking further awards for best screenplay, best actor for Andy Lau and best actress for Ip again too.

Hui said she felt a responsibility to make a “record of the culture and heritage” of the city she lives in, rather than “worrying about whether a story works commercially”.

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