Doctor of Letters, honoris causa (2014)
Dr Johnnie K F To is one of the world’s best filmmakers and has been, for the past two decades, one of the leading figures of the film industry of Hong Kong. With his calibre, versatility and energy, he has played an instrumental role in promoting the development of the Hong Kong film industry.
In 1972, Dr To started, at the age of 17, his life-long career in film and media when he joined the Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) and in 1977 he became a producer and director of TVB’s Drama Division. The well-known TV drama serials he produced include Chinese Folklore (民間傳奇), Yesterday’s Glitter (京華春夢) and Legend of the Condor Heroes (射雕英雄傳). In 1979, Dr To made his first directorial debut with the film The Enigmatic Case (碧水寒山奪命金). In 1996, he co-founded with Mr. Wai Ka Fai Milkyway Image (Hong Kong) Limited, where he produced and directed a series of films blended with local flavour and creativity including A Hero Never Dies (真心英雄), Running Out of Time (暗戰) and The Mission (鎗火). In the past three decades, Dr To has directed and produced more than 70 films of a wide diversity genres and cinematic styles, covering martial arts to shootouts, imaging to narration with extraordinary flair. He is particularly capable of dealing with themes ranging from dramatising ties of friendship among killers, the ups and downs of triad society, witty contests of life and the sweetness and bitterness of love-chasing, all illustrative of his concern for society and the human situation. With decades of hard work, Dr To’s films has become the emblem of Hong Kong filmography on the global stage while he himself has been selected as one of the representatives of Hong Kong popular culture in the past 30 years by City Magazine in April 2006, honouring him as “the Citizen To of Cinema”.
Dr To’s films are well-loved by people from different walks of society, and has secured him countless awards over the past decades. He was named best director three times in the Hong Kong Film Awards, three times in the Golden Horse Awards of Taiwan, six times in the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards, and three times in the Golden Bauhinia Awards. He also received numerous nominations and commendations from film societies in Asia-Pacific, Europe and the US. To date, Dr To’s award list tops any Chinese film director. In 2009, Dr To was awarded the French Order of Arts and Letters by the Ministry of Culture of France; in 2010, he was awarded the Honorary Fellowship by Lingnan University, Hong Kong; in 2011, he was awarded the Medal of Honour by the HKSAR Government; in June 2014, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Hong Kong Academy of Performance Arts. Dr To has also been awarded “lifetime achievement awards” in international film festivals in Spain, the Netherlands and Switzerland in recognition of his contributions to film arts.
Besides his creative achievements in film production and film directing, Dr To has devoted tremendous efforts to grooming local talents. In 2004, he became a member of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and soon after started chairing the Film and Media Arts Group of the Council. In 2005, Dr To initiated the “Fresh Wave Short Film Competition” which evolved in 2010 into an international short film festival, further fostering cultural exchange among international filmmakers.
For many years, Dr To has maintained close contacts with the University through giving regular talks and guest lectures to the students of the Academy of Film and the Humanities and Creative Writing programme.
Dr Johnnie To has won global recognition for his cinematic art, and has made tremendous contributions to the flourishing and continuing development the Hong Kong film industry. He has rendered precious support to the Academy of Film and the Humanities and Creative Writing programme of the University.