The 77th Venice International Film Award will honour Hong Kong New Wave director Ann Hui, along with English actress Tilda Swinton, with the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award. The recommendation was made by Alberto Barbera, Director of the Venice Film Festival, and the awardees were selected by the Board of Directors of the Biennale di Venezia. Barbera commended Hui for being one of Asia’s most respected, prolific, and versatile directors of our times. “Her career spans four decades and touches every film genre. From the outset, she has been acknowledged as one of the pivotal figures of the so-called Hong Kong New Wave – the film movement which revolutionised Hong Kong’s movies during the 1970s and ’80s, transforming the cosmopolitan city into one of the most energetic, creative centres of the decade,” he said.
The local director studied at the University of Hong Kong and the London Film School in the early 1970s. Upon releasing her debut feature The Secret (1979), she was shot to fame as one of the key figures in the Hong Kong New Wave film movement which she, together with iconic Hong Kong directors such as Tsui Hark, John Woo and Patrick Tam, shapes. Hui has directed 26 features, two hour-long documentaries, several shorts and has been the Associate Producer for other major directors such as Yim Ho and Xie Jin.
Hui is the first Chinese female film director to be given the award. Commenting on a wide array of genres that Hui has worked on, including melodramas, ghost stories, semi-autobiographical movies, adaptations of major literary works, family dramas, martial arts movies and thrillers, Barbera pointed out that Hui has been one of the first directors on the Hong Kong scene to bring documentary material into fiction films. He said, “The cinema of Ann Hui has never abandoned an auteurist approach. In her movies, she has always shown particular interest in compassionate and social vicissitudes, recounting – with sensitivity and the sophistication of an intellectual – individual stories that interweave with important social themes such as those of refugees, the marginalised, and the elderly. In a trailblazing fashion, through her language and her unique visual style, not only has she captured the specific aspects of the city and the imagination of Hong Kong, she has also transposed and translated them into a universal perspective.”
Upon receiving the news, Hui declared, “I am so happy to receive this news and honoured for the award! So happy that I feel I cannot find the words. I just hope everything in the world will turn better soon and everybody can feel again as happy as I am in this moment.”The Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of the HKSAR, Edward Yau, further congratulated Hui for being “a pioneer of Hong Kong and Asian cinemas of our time”.
A co-recipient of the award is acclaimed blockbuster and art house English actress Tilda Swinton, most known for her powerful performances in Sally Potter’s Orlando (1992), fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia (2005, 2008 and 2010), and Marvel Studio’s superhero blockbuster Doctor Strange (2016). Barbera praises her for being “a star of contemporary film par excellence, who doesn’t settle for simplicity and fashionable dictates, but instead aspires to the impossible.” He said, “Her every portrayal is a fearless challenge to conventions, be they artistic or social; the outcome of a need to put herself continuously on the line without ever being satisfied with the results she achieves.”
On receiving the award, Swinton stated, “This great festival has been dear to my heart for three decades: to be honoured by her in this way is extremely humbling. To come to Venice, this year of all years, to celebrate immortal cinema and her defiant survival in the face of all the challenges that evolution might throw at her – as at us all – will be my sincere joy.”
The awards will be presented at the Venice International Film Festival on September 2-12 at Venice Lido.