The Amoy-dialect film is a part of Hong Kong history that is all but absent in the memory of our moviegoers. More than 200 Amoy-dialect titles were produced in Hong Kong between the 1940s and the 1960s, with many adapted from well-known Cantonese or Mandarin films like "Songs of the Peach Blossom River", "Between Husband and Wife", "The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple", "A Forgotten Wife", "The Girl of the Year" and "Twin Sisters", yet they were seldom shown locally. They were made in the Amoy dialect of southern Fujian and mainly targeted Fujian émigrés in Southeast Asian countries.
Most of these Amoy films have been lost. The Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) has throughout the years acquired a small collection of titles, with some of them in prints and some only in the VHS format. As a contributory programme to the 36th Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF), the HKFA will screen 12 Amoy films and two reference films in its new programme "The Strange Case of Hong Kong Amoy Cinema" for audiences to rediscover this neglected yet important facet of local cinema history.
Three of the films will be shown during the HKIFF on March 31 while all 14 films will be shown from April 8 to May 27. All screenings will be held at the Cinema of the HKFA. Tickets are now available at URBTIX outlets.
Early Amoy-dialect films were mostly costume pictures, while more films with contemporary settings were produced in the late 1950s. Most of the films were financed by overseas funds and were made with fewer resources in comparison with the production of Cantonese and Mandarin films at the same period, yet they were produced with established actors, directors, scriptwriters and behind-the-scenes personnel. A few stars enjoyed great popularity, becoming household names among Fujianese-speaking populations.
The three films to be screened during the HKIFF include the costume film "Southeast the Peacock Flies" (1955), a sing-song film based on a Han dynasty "yuefu" poem of same title. It tells the story of a village girl whose mother-in-law forces her son to marry a rich girl, resulting in tragedy. Starring the Taiwan actress Bai Lan, the city comedy "A Good Couple" (1959) was adapted from director Zhu Shilin's popular film "Between Husband and Wife" (1958). A backstage musical set in a dance hall, "Siren of the Dance Hall" (1959) features Bai Yi as the beauty of the title, who wears sexuality on her sleeve. Bai's performance in the film is one of the most remarkable personifications of carnal desire in 1950s Hong Kong cinema.
Other selected films to be shown in April and May include director Chu Kea's costume picture "A Filial Daughter Avenges for Her Father" (1957); "Sisters Two" (1957), starring Jiang Fan and Xiao Yan Qiu and adapted from the popular Mandarin film "Twin Sisters", starring the famous star Butterfly Wu; "A Woman Searches for Her Husband Overseas" (1958), which features the cherished Hong Kong cinema theme of a husband who travels overseas and falls under the spell of a rich man's mistress; "Honeymoon Hiccups" (1958), a light comedy about a young couple who prepare to marry; and "Advertisement Beauty" (1959), starring the most luminous star of Amoy cinema, Chong Sit-fong, and adapted from director Tso Kea's "The Girl of the Year".
The delightful comedy "Love is Fate" (1960) centres on the situation of a forced marriage, a cherished plot in Mandarin films. The Amoy song-and-dance film "Songs of the Peach Blossom River, the Sequel" (1960) takes off from popular Mandarin films like "Songs of the Peach Blossom River" and "Mambo Girl", animating the stars through various dance numbers with a city beat. "Shrews from Afar" (1958) and "The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple, Part Three" (1957), both starring Ivy Ling Bo, will be shown free of charge due to poor visual quality.
Two Mandarin reference films, directors Wong Tin-lam and Zhang Shankun's "Songs of the Peach Blossom River" (1956) and director Zhu Shilin's "Between Husband and Wife" (1958), will be shown after the screenings of "Songs of the Peach Blossom River, the Sequel" and "A Good Couple" on April 21 and 29 respectively.
To tie in with the programme, the HKFA will publish a research monograph entitled "The Amoy-dialect Films of Hong Kong" in late March. It includes essays by local and overseas researchers and experts, explaining the trajectory and characteristics of Hong Kong's Amoy-dialect cinema from the perspectives of history, culture and music. Oral history interviews with Ivy Ling Bo and other filmmakers who participated in Amoy-dialect projects are also included in this book.
A seminar entitled "Those Were the Days" will also be held at the Cinema of the HKFA at 4.30pm on April 8. The speakers will be Amoy film actress Ms Chong Sit-fong; the Associate Professor of the Department of Chinese Studies of the National University of Singapore, Mr Yung Sai-shing; and researcher Mr Su Zhangkai. The seminar will be conducted in Mandarin and Cantonese. Admission is free.
The 12 Amoy films have Chinese subtitles while the two reference films are in Mandarin without subtitles.
Tickets for all screenings are priced at $40. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Credit card bookings can be made at 2111 5999, or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk.
Further information and details of various discounts can be obtained in "ProFolio 62" or the 36th HKIFF booking folder distributed at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For programme enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900 or browse the website at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2012ac/2012ac_index.html.
Ends/Wednesday, March 14, 2012
A film still from "The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple, Part Three" (1957).
A film still from "A Woman Searches for Her Husband Overseas" (1958).
A film still from "Honeymoon Hiccups" (1958).
A film still from "A Good Couple" (1959).