Among the New Wave television directors who made the leap to cinema in the late 1970s, Allen Fong's works are filled with poetic and nuanced sentiment. He insists on realising his youthful experiences and fantasies in his experimental approach. Instead of conforming to the mainstream, he patiently treads his own path and stays true to his passion. Such creative spirit and perseverance is a rare find in Hong Kong cinema.
To showcase Fong's unique achievements and his passion for art and life, five feature films and 16 television films he directed will be shown at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) from July 17 to August 9 in a new programme "e-wave to new wave: Life as Art, Life as Dream - Allen Fong in Retrospective".
This programme is the third in the HKFA series on New Wave directors who started their careers in television, the first two being "e-wave: The TV Films of Ann Hui & Yim Ho" and "e-wave: The TV Films of Patrick Tam".
To supplement the screenings, a seminar entitled "Allen Fong and Cheung Man-yee on Their TV Days", with Fong and Cheung Man-yee, the former Director of Broadcasting and producer of Fong's early TV works, as the guest speakers will be held at 5pm on July 18. Another seminar "The TV and Film Works of Allen Fong" will be held at 4.30pm on August 8 with film critics Wong Chi, Cheung Chi-sing, Cheng Chi-hung and film actress Hui So-ying as speakers. Both seminars will be conducted in Cantonese. Admission is free.
After attending Hong Kong Baptist College and furthering his studies at the University of Georgia and the University of Southern California, Fong began his career with Radio Television Hong Kong as an Assistant Director of the "Below the Lion Rock" series and swiftly worked his way up to Director. His early projects brought his talent to the public eye. He did not venture into film until 1981 and his first two projects in 1981 to 1983 immediately won him awards. However, in the following eight years, he produced only four feature films.
His films are invariably inspired by real-life characters and are often left open-ended. Performing art is a medium for Fong to experience life, memories and dreams, which are ingredients for him to reconstruct the past and look into the future. Narrative is the means for him to explore the truth in life without necessarily coming to a dramatic conclusion.
Behind his rich collection of works, he is a keen observer of society; a humanist contemplating the meaning of life through joy and sorrow. His endeavours to open up new avenues in cinematic aesthetics gained him a fair share of recognition. Yet, his determination to remain faithful to reality made him one of the uncompromising pioneers among the New Wave filmmakers.
Screenings of Fong's works include four series of his TV films: "Below the Lion Rock", "Film Drama", "Elderly", "Art Panorama" and five films "Father and Son", "Ah Ying", "Just Like Weather", "Dancing Bull" and "A Little Life-Opera".
Shot on sets and on location, "Below the Lion Rock" features different stories with a regular cast. "Detoxification" (1976) and "Childcare" (1976) were his first directorial attempts. "The Wild Child" (1977) which won the Golden Award at the Iran Film Festival and "Ode to Un Chau Chai" (1977) showed his talent. Both episodes were special entries at the London Film Festival.
Fong likes drawing on real-life characters and capturing everyday life with humour and compassion. "The Extras" (1977) shows resilience and tenacity of a veteran movie extra; "Choice of Dreams" (1978) portrays the myriad faces of Taiwanese women; "Old Plough" (1978) features cross-border marriage; "New Life" (1979) is a bleak portrait of rehabilitation while "Women in Transition" (1994) is a docudrama examining women's status in family and society. In "Nightwalker" (1978) and "For My Brother" (1978), the director questions the functions and responsibilities of the media.
Fong has a special fondness for struggling nobodies, people living their own dreams and fighting the mundane world with indomitable energy. The "Elderly" TV series, "Happy Teahouse" (1992) and "I Can Manage" (1992) show a retired man and a scavenger lady's independent yet contented lives.
Some of his works are on interactions between art and life. The "Film Drama" TV series, "Veggie Queen" (1989) and "Opera Queen" (1989) both depict a persistent optimistic woman’s passion for Cantonese opera. "Art Panorama: Creative Wisdom" (1991) carries an open interview with Willy Tsao, the founder of the City Contemporary Dance Company, about his views on the 1997 reunification, the arts and life in general.
With the support of Willy Tsao, Fong made the film "Dancing Bull" (1990) on the artistic and emotional crises of dancers. "A Little Life-Opera" (1998) is also themed on performing art with an amateur opera singer having to make a life between intensive practice and tending family affairs.
Not to be missed is his first full-length feature "Father and Son" (1981), a social epic in which the bond shared by a father and his son brings back to life the collective past of countless people in Hong Kong. "Ah Ying" (1983) features a young fishmonger whose real passion is acting. Both films won him the Best Director and Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Another award-winning film "Just Like Weather" (1986), regarded as the most experimental of Fong's films, is a combination of fiction and documentary on a couple's adventures in the United States.
"Ah Ying", "Just Like Weather", "Dancing Bull" and "A Little Life-Opera" have English subtitles. Tickets priced at $30 for all screenings are available at all URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009, or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk.
Detailed programme information can be obtained in the "ProFolio 48" distributed at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900 or browse the website: www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp.
Ends/Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Picture shows a still of "Below the Lion Rock: The Wild Child" (1977).
Picture shows a film still of "Father and Son" (1981).