Honorary University Fellow (2021)
As one of the most influential names in Hong Kong cinema, the celebrated film producer Ms Shi Nan-sun is perhaps the best person to showcase the connection between heroes, or heroines, and the times. Do particular moments in time make heroes, or do heroes shape their time? For Ms Shi, a true heroine of Hong Kong cinema, both are undoubtedly true.
Having joined the film industry in 1980s during the rise of the Hong Kong New Wave, her meticulous management skills, westernised marketing approach and sense of commitment and loyalty were much sought-after by lots of energetic, up-and-coming film directors. As a result, the stage was set for her career and her transformation into a heroine of the local film industry.
Over the years, Ms Shi has made her mark on the sector. Apart from shaping the “Golden Era of Hong Kong Film” in the 1980s and contributing to the international success of Hong Kong film, she has pushed Chinese cinema to a whole new level. For the past few decades, Ms Shi has been the face that filmmakers from across the globe see at the forefront of the local film industry.
Born and educated in Hong Kong, Ms Shi furthered her study at the Polytechnic of North London in the United Kingdom and received a degree in Statistics and Computing. She started her career in television and subsequently moved into the film industry. In 1981, she joined Cinema City Company Limited, and she later branched out and co-founded the influential Film Workshop Company Limited and Distribution Workshop (HK) Limited. All these companies played a pivotal role in the rapid development of the local film industry and its rising status in the international arena.
As a canny veteran producer, and an articulate ambassador for the big screen in Hong Kong, Ms Shi has repeatedly been invited to serve on international film panels and festival juries. At home, she has been an ardent advocate of a more systematic and professional industry as well as a fervent, yet diplomatic, bridge between the industry and the Government. In 2013, she was appointed an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Consul General of France in Hong Kong and Macau.
Ms Shi has been bestowed with numerous honours and awards at some of the most important festivals in the international arena. The most prestigious ones include the Best Independent Producer Award (Premio Raimondo Rezzonico) at the Locarno Film Festival in 2014; the Special Achievement Award at the Marie Claire Asia Star Awards in 2015, which are part of the Busan International Film Festival; the Golden Mulberry Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Udine Far East Film Festival in 2015; and the Berlinale Camera Award (for Contribution to Film Industry) at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2017.
Despite being hailed as a key player in the Asian film scene for over three decades, Ms Shi still has unfulfilled dreams. She continues to be emotionally attached to the country of her birth, and she wants to bring China’s film industry to the international stage. A firm believer in the enormous soft power of film, she thinks that the world would understand China, and its complex culture, much better if they had the opportunity to see more Chinese films. At the 2019 Pingyao International Film Festival, Ms Shi received the International Contribution to Chinese Cinema Award for her longstanding efforts to raise the profile of Chinese cinema on the international stage. But she did not stop there, and she is committed to doing more to further publicise some of the hidden gems and emerging directors from the local and Mainland film industries.
Following years of success, Ms Shi believes that it is her turn to give back to the community by passing on the knowledge and connections that she has amassed in the film industry to the young talent. Currently serving as an Honorary Consultant to the Academy of Film at Hong Kong Baptist University, she regularly meets up with students to discuss film, and offers many internship opportunities to them.
As a very positive and proactive person, Ms Shi reminds the younger generation to be hopeful of tomorrow. While she understands their doubts about the future of Hong Kong, she urges them to stay optimistic and open-minded, and to focus on enhancing their own competitiveness, while also learning to see things from different perspectives.