Cover Kara Wai Ying-hung as Chu's mother and Hugo Ng as the father in Sunshine of My Life (Image: courtesy of Mandarin Motion Pictures Limited)

Judy Chu’s directorial debut, an autobiographical account of her life as the child of visually impaired parents, stars veteran actress Kara Wai Ying-hung and opens on September 15

When director and scriptwriter Judy Chu sent the veteran actress Kara Wai Ying-hung the script for Sunshine of My Life, she received a “yes” almost immediately.

“Madam Hung [as Wai is widely known] asked me how many years I had been working on the research,” Chu recalls. “I answered: more than 30 years—it is my life.”

“I hope that through this film, more people will know that there are actually inspirational, persevering, and positive people in Hong Kong society,” says Wai, who plays Chu’s mother Kam Siu Hung in the film, in a press statement.

The Hong Kong film—which opens in cinemas today (September 15)—is based on the first-time director Chu’s childhood. She was raised by blind parents, who overcame the challenges presented by their visual impairment—and the social prejudice it came with—to provide their sighted daughter with a loving home.

The film’s opening scene depicts Chu in her toddler days. She pulls the dangling electric cable of a rice cooker and pours the boiling congee within all over herself—because her mother is not able to stop her in time. As Chu grows older, she becomes an aid to her parents—their “walking cane”—though has to juggle these responsibilities with time spent with school friends, who do not understand her struggles. She is torn between pursuing higher education overseas and staying behind to take care of her ageing parents.

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The story of Sunshine of My Life's story had been over a decade in development. Chu had created the script while majoring in acting at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, inspired by the emotions that had arisen as a result of the microaggressions people had towards her parents’ disability. The script became the basis of a 15-minute short, Undernourished?, which was released in 2014. It was selected for the Ifva (Incubator for Film and Visual media) festival in the same year and Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival in 2015. When audience members told her how amazed they were at her parents’ achievements, Chu decided to expand it into a feature film. She worked closely with Raymond Wong, the founder of Mandarin Motion Pictures, which is behind the Ip Man franchise, on the script—Wong had been deeply touched by the director’s personal story.

While Sunshine of My Life focuses on Chu’s life, she also wants her film to spotlight how challenging it is for visually impaired parents to raise a family—as well as the stereotypes that visually impaired people face in society.  In recent years, says Chu, Hong Kong has been more accommodating to the blind—though there is still some way to go towards making the city an inclusive place. “[The visually impaired] are more than capable of just being operators or masseurs, which are conventional job ideas for the blind—I’ve seen how they can make beautiful latte art as baristas.” she says. The majority of the film’s cast are visually impaired; volunteers from the Hong Kong Blind Union participated in production and transcribed the script into Braille for the visually impaired actors.

Chu believes Sunshine of My Life will connect people of all ages and body conditions, which she says has been her greatest motivation.

“I borrowed my visually impaired family as a subject, but ultimately, the film is about family,” she says. “It’s a film for families—anyone and everyone.”

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