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Course : CLIT2086 Asian on Screen

Student : Cherry, Chan Lei Lei (2005626134)


E-mail address : arlei918@gmail.com
Tutor : Patrick Luk (Mon 9:30)
Journal Entry : Ann Hui’s Cinematic Vision__________________________________

Ann Hui’s Boat People imposes historical subject matter. Written in American Cinema Paper,
Ann Hui said that the subject matter of Boat People was so strong, the script and dialogue
were so carefully written that she couldn’t use an obtrusive visual style. Referencing to the
two events which invited Ann Hui recently by the Comparative Literature Department, I
attended and strongly impressed by Ann’s view on the style of films. Ann is the kind of
director believing that the story chooses its style. She believes that the way to shoot is framed
by how the story is going on. The story imposes its own shots. However, style does make a
statement of a film, like Wong Ka Wai’s films, style is a very important part of narrative. It is
the uniqueness of different directors, some emphasize on style while some focus on
storytelling. In this case, Ann said she used plain narrative for Boat People which she couldn’t
think of better ways to shoot it.

I appreciate Ann’s use of plain narrative for Boat People and I think there are 2 really amazing
shots in the film. At the opening, Ann used an establishing shot which shows the panorama
view of the crowds and troops in the liberation day of Vietnam. This is a long take lasted for
nearly 3 minute showing the general town view in Vietnam which the troops pass through. It
quickly introduces a Japanese photojournalist, covering the liberation of Vietnam. It is
appropriately linked to the later part of the film which is in the point of view of this Japanese
photojournalist who is an outsider and observer. Besides, different specific characters were
posed in the frame, for example, a little cripple boy walked difficultly into a corridor,
juxtaposing the cheer crowds with this dark side of the country. Another shot is the ending of
the film. The final shot is a freeze-frame depicting the 2 kids, sister and brother looking out
across the ocean on a refugee boat leaving Vietnam. Many characters die in the film, only the
2 kids find their way out. Although the entire film is quite frustrating with the corruption,
tyranny and poverty, the final shot still provides room of positive view of the future.

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Another point I want to share is that I think Boat People shows self-reflexivity. Akutagawa,
the Japanese photojournalist, wants to use his camera to reveal the truth. However, whenever
he knows the more about the circumstances, he find the more unknowledgeable he is. The girl
asks Akutagawa what Tokyo is like. Akutagawa answers her he cannot tell what Tokyo is like
and recommends her to find out herself. It seems that truth is always unrevealed. The film
may also understand as questioning what the truth is. A filmmaker is like the photojournalist
using the frames of camera to capture what they think is “true” (I do not mean the fact, but
true) of the world.

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