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Ann Hui is First Female Director to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award at Venice Film Festival

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Internationally-acclaimed Hong Kong film director Ann Hui will be awarded the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award at the upcoming 77th Venice Film Festival in September, making her the first ever female director to receive this honor. She will receive the award alongside Tilda Swinton who is also being recognized as part of the Festival. 

The news was unveiled a week before the release of the full line-up for the festival, which will include Hui’s new film Love After Love, starring Eddie Peng and Ma Sichun, in the Out of Competition section. The Venice Film Festival is one of the first major international film festivals to return in a physical offline form in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hui was born in Liaoning province in northeastern China and moved to Hong Kong at the age of five. After studying at the University of Hong Kong and London Film School, she went on to become a celebrated film directorHui is a two-time Hong Kong Film Festival “grand slam” winner, with her 1995 film Summer Show (女人四十) and 2012 film A Simple Life (桃姐) both scooping the awards for best picture, best director, best screenplay, best actor and best actress. In 2007, she was invited to become a member of the exclusive Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

Over the course of a directorial career that has spanned four decades, Hui has become renowned for films that highlight ordinary people’s stories and profound social issues through a diversity of genres. In particular, women have been a recurring focus in her productions.

As part of the statement announcing the award, the Director of the Venice Film Festival, Alberto Barbera said, “Ann Hui is one of Asia’s most respected, prolific, and versatile directors of our times […] 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 marginalized, 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.” 

“I am so happy to receive this news and honored for the award!” Hui was quoted as saying in response to the news. “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.” 

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Love After Love (第一炉香) is an adaptation of a short story by the renowned Chinese writer Eileen Chang. The movie tells of a Shanghainese girl gradually becoming enveloped in an extravagant life after moving to Hong Kong and living with her wealthy but malicious aunt. Originally planning to seek a good education in the city, the young woman ends up becoming a money-making tool for her aunt by seducing rich men.

Other highlights at the festival in September will include the premiere of the Frances McDormand-starring film Nomadland from Beijing-born, New York-based director Chloé Zhao, who is also helming The EternalsIn the festival’s Horizons section, young Chinese director Wang Jing will showcase his feature The Best Is Yet to Come, which is co-produced by Sixth Generation auteur Jia Zhangke.

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The Venice Film Festival is the world’s oldest and one of its most prestigious film festivals. This year’s edition is expected to feature numerous social distancing measures and other Covid-19-related restrictions. 

This comes not long after China reopened its movie theaters on July 20 and welcomed the delayed Shanghai International Film Festival, which kicked off on July 25 with the addition of online and outdoor screenings. The 10th Beijing International Film Festival has also been announced for next month, taking place August 22-29.

Siyuan Meng
    Born and raised in Shaoxing, Siyuan lived in New York and Los Angeles prior to Shanghai. If she is not at work, she is probably at an art museum, a gym, a Mom-and-Pop restaurant or a park. She likes reading books or playing the piano on rainy days. She thinks she takes great photos.