Dr Ann Hui On-wah
Doctor of Letters, honoris causa (2023)
The multifaceted universe of cinema, teeming with diverse narratives and perspectives, is profoundly enriched by the enduring works of Dr Ann Hui On-wah. As a renowned filmmaker, Dr Hui’s impact reverberates well beyond the confines of Hong Kong. Her influence is not only measured in box office metrics, but her work also acts as a cultural bridge, drawing global audiences into the stories that define Hong Kong’s distinctive identity.
Born to a Chinese father and a Japanese mother in Liaoning Province, China, Dr Hui moved to Macau at the age of five and later to Hong Kong. Since her grandfather and father both love classical literature, Dr Hui learned to recite many ancient Chinese poems when she was young. Throughout her youth, she displayed a deep devotion to literature and philosophy. This passion led her to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1969 and a Master of Arts in English and Comparative Literature degree in 1973 from the University of Hong Kong. She further advanced her studies at the London Film School in 1975.
Upon her return to Hong Kong, Dr Hui began her career as an assistant to the renowned Chinese filmmaker, King Hu. She then joined Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), producing seven anti-corruption promotional TV episodes based on actual events and three episodes of “Below the Lion Rock”, a series capturing the lives of ordinary Hong Kong people. Dr Hui’s film-making journey took root in the late 1970s, a time when Hong Kong New Wave was nascent. Her debut film, "The Secret," not only showcased her ability to intertwine complex social issues into compelling narratives but also earned recognition as one of the year's ten best films at the Golden Horse Awards in Taipei.
While many films made in the 1980s were Eastern variations of Hollywood-style gangster and action films, Dr Hui stood apart and focused instead on themes of cultural displacement. During the New Wave period, Dr Hui's films offer profound reflections on life in its many shades. From the "Boat People" addressing the Vietnamese refugee issues and marking the first Hong Kong movie shot in Mainland China post-Cultural Revolution, to the exploration of cultural identity and the complexities of family relationships in "Song of the Exile" and "My American Grandson", Dr Hui's ability to sensitively navigate complex social issues is evident. Her compassionate portrayal of marginalised individuals in "The Way We Are” and the moving narrative of personal and societal transformation in "A Simple Life," which won the Best Actress Prize at the Venice International Film Festival, demonstrate her commitment to telling the untold stories of everyday people, a trait that has endeared her to audiences globally.
With a portfolio of over 30 directorial credits, Dr Hui has created an impressive body of work spanning a wide range of genres from TV drama and documentary to ghost stories, thrillers, martial arts, costume dramas, comedies, and literary romances. Her films are not just stories; they are reflections of the society she has lived in. Through her lens, Dr Hui has given voice to the voiceless, spotlighting the marginalised and overlooked. Her unique style, combined with her fearless narrative approach to highly controversial topics, has consistently challenged norms and pushed boundaries. Dr Hui has provided a platform for the stories of Hong Kong to be told with authenticity and respect.
Dr Hui's exceptional contributions to the film industry have been recognised with a host of awards, including six Best Director awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards and three at the Golden Horse Awards. In 2020, she received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice International Film Festival. In her illustrious career, Dr Hui has also been a guiding star for the next generation of filmmakers. Through her teaching roles at the Hong Kong Baptist University and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, she has shared her knowledge and experience, shaping the minds of young filmmakers and ensuring the future vibrancy of the film industry. In addition, she served a Chair of the Jury in Golden Horse Awards (2016, 2022), Vice Chairman of Hong Kong International Film Festival Society (2008), Chairman of Hong Kong Film Directors’ Guild (2004-06) and Council Member of The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (1993-96). At the Hong Kong Baptist University, Dr Hui was one of the award presenters at the Global University Film Awards 2020, organised by the Academy of Film.
Dr Hui has shown us the power of film to provoke thought, invoke empathy, and inspire change. In recognition of her extraordinary contributions to the film industry and her steadfast commitment to nurturing young talent, Hong Kong Baptist University is delighted to confer upon Dr Ann Hui On-wah the Doctor of Letters, honoris causa. We are confident that her legacy will continue to inspire and motivate generations of filmmakers in the future.