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SUNLESS DAYS

Hong Kong, 1989 (MIFF 1990, Documentaries)

Director: Shu Kei

When director Shu Kei was invited to contribute an episode to a weekly television documentary series for Japan's NHK Television, he proposed a documentary on Hou Dejian, the singer/song-writer who defected from Taiwan to mainland China in 1983.

That project was abandoned, however, after the turbulent events of last year that culminated in the massacre of demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Shu Kei then proposed that he make a film on the effects of the events of China on the people of Hong Kong. NHK consented, at the same time suggesting that he make it both as a one-hour television documentary and as a theatrical feature on 16mm film.

Rather than taking a straightforward journalistic approach, Shu Kei used as the starting point the impact the events had on himself, his family and friends. He talked to Hou Hsiao-hsien shortly after his film City of Sadness won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival; to actress Deanie Ip; to Yeung Li-Kwan, a former arts page editor of Hong Kong's main Communist controlled newspaper, where Shu Kei wrote his first film reviews; to poet and painter Duo Duo, who now lives in self-imposed exile in London.

The film travels to Taiwan, Australia, Toronto and London, before returning to Hong Kong. For the filmmaker and the interviewees, the journey reflects wider concerns over Chinese identity, their concerns about whether to stay or leave when Hong Kong comes under the control of Beijing in 1997 and the problems of political and media censorship.

In the context of Hong Kong cinema, with its clear-cut orientation toward genre films and avoidance of political subject matters, Sunless Days must be seen as something of an oddity. It is a compassionate, politically engaged and uncompromising film that, ironically, has a very slim chance of ever being seen in Hong Kong.
- (PKa)

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