Film Review - Keep Rolling Ann Hui Documentary
Keep Rolling is the directorial debut documentary by Man Lim Chung, charting the successful career and personality of one of Hong Kong’s respected children, Ann Hui. It’s a rare opportunity to learn more about her motivations, dedication and practices to film-making, but also a warming portrait of someone who is outwardly courageous and outspoken, but is inwardly self-conscious and pensive. Mixed with archival footage, photographs and established guest speakers, Keep Rolling is a snapshot of a 40+ year career. Hui’s list of awards is pretty much endless, and shouts volumes about her commitment to film-making and storytelling, so much so, that in 2020, she was presented the Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement Award by the 77th Venice International Film Festival, alongside actress Tilda Swindon.
Born 2 years after the end of the Sino-Japan war to a Chinese father and Japanese mother, she immigrated to Hong-Kong at the age of 5. Years later, returning to Hong-Kong after 2 years at London Film School, Hui begins a career in television productions for TVB under the guidance of Legendary Chinese director King Hu, before debuting her feature film, The Secret, which earned her the best film award at the Golden Horse Awards and becoming key figure in Hong-Kong’s New Wave scene in the 70s-80s.
During the course of the film, providing you have seen her filmography, you realize how self-referential her films are, be that of her own experiences or giving life to her inner thoughts. Both her sister and brother comment on how they can see little nuances in their sisters fictional characters or her questioning a situation, such as the frailty of her mother in real life, which is portrayed in, A Simple Life, starring Andy Lau. It’s these insights into Hui that really start to break down the facade of ‘superstar’, as you notice her vulnerability and how her insecurities surface. Hui herself, as well the guest speakers, comment on her physical appearance, as she is not the most feminine looking woman, not that she is trying to break idea’s of gender, she just simply likes her hair short and doesn’t care too much for fashion, her sister laughs and says to the camera, you see she gets all these (clothes) and gives them away, as Ann opens yet another parcel sent to her. Open as she may be on camera unafraid to talk about most subjects, she hides behind either a cigarette (yes, it’s noted how she’s harcore smoker) or as Ann herself expresses, she prefers to hide behind the camera and work. Maybe that’s a good place to hide if you think reciting Shakespeare is cool. Tsui Hark didn’t and never asked her out again.
As Keep Rolling casts Ann Hui as the star of her own show, her life, the narrative is linear and easy to follow as Hui reflects on her early days as a filmmaker, which comically leaves the door open for the guest speakers to mention how difficult she was in those early days of her career, but with age comes a sense of mellowness, so the days of throwing tantrums on set, then apologising after the shot and buying pineapple cake for the crew, but then throwing another tantrum the next day, are over. She laughs…a lot. And talks about how as a tv producer she would cry to get her own way. For some people, you would think ‘diva’, but Hui’s playful cheekiness, you forgive her. Although, I’m sure all those around her at the time would have rolled their eyes and gasped, here we go again.
If you are familiar with Hui’s work or not, you won’t go wrong checking out this documentary and watching it alongside one of her films.
Keep Rolling is available to watch as part of Chinese Cinema Season