Visible Secrets: Hong Kong’s Women Filmmakers

Visible Secrets UK tour launched at a gala screening in London on Mon 2 November, and will visit venues across the country, facilitated by the Independent Cinema Office.

Check the “UK Tour” section for updates, on the left hand side of this page.

A UK-first season of new films, including a focus on the contemporary films of award winning director Ann Hui, curated by Sarah Perks, Programme & Engagement Director at Cornerhouse and Andy Willis, Reader in Film Studies at University of Salford.

From the auteur to the avant-garde, Hong Kong cinema has a strong tradition of women working behind the camera. Perhaps surprisingly, most of their work has rarely been seen in the UK. Intended to address this glaring omission, Visible Secrets: Hong Kong’s Women Filmmakers, will be a unique programme of films, events and special guests designed to celebrate the imagination and vibrancy of these directors and their work.

The programme introduces astounding new directors including Yan Yan Mak, Barbara Wong, Aubrey Lam and Tsang Tsui Shan; covers documentaries and short films, and showcases the contemporary films of Ann Hui.

In addition, to coincide with the season, the co-programmers have edited the autumn edition of the respected magazine Film International focusing on Hong Kong cinema with an extended article on Visible Secrets, now available to buy from our Bookshop.


The programme is an excellent one and offers a good and rare opportunity for people in the UK to see work by Hong Kong women filmmakers. The films are very well chosen and they cover a comprehensive range of recent output, including documentaries, which will be quite attractive to contemporary audiences. Particularly noteworthy is the mini-retrospective of Ann Hui, who remains the most outstanding of Hong Kong’s female directors. Her recent work continues to grow from strength to strength. In Hui’s work we see a commitment to cinema but more than that, we see her immersion in the social world of her characters and her attempts to uncover transcendental secrets about human beings, making these secrets visible before our very eyes, as it were. All the women filmmakers featured in this season share Hui’s mission in one way or another, and it is therefore a fascinating programme altogether. I congratulate the programmers for organizing the season and highly recommend it to film buffs and filmgoers in general who see film as a window on society and as a mirror of one’s soul.

Stephen Teo, Author of Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions (BFI Publishing)



visible secrets supporters and sponsors



Gala Tickets are £10 full / £8 concs, and include a glass of wine.


This strand of Visible Secrets will showcase recent features by new and emerging directors to watch. Floating Landscapes reveals the breadth, variety and vibrancy of the work produced by young Hong Kong women filmmakers.


This strand of Visible Secrets explores the wide range of documentaries made by women directors. Also see This Darling Life Opening Gala above.


Described by as ‘One of the most important figures of Hong Kong cinema’, Ann Hui is perhaps the best known women filmmaker currently working in the territory. Her work combines a celebration of the history and traditions of Hong Kong and its cinema with an acute eye for contemporary social issues facing the territory. A graduate of the London Film School, her films have appeared at prestigious film festivals such as Berlin and San Sebastian and won over 13 awards. Since Visible Secret in 2001 her films have enjoyed widespread critical acclaim. That film gave us the title for our season and we are proud to showcase the recent work of an inspirational woman filmmaker.


Three programmes of exciting acclaimed shorts films curated by Teresa Kwong, director of the Hong Kong Independent Film and Video Awards (IFVA) in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Snapshots presents a selection of the best and most engaging work from a new generation of women artists and filmmakers who choose to produce independent and experimental work that is very different from the commercial concerns of the Hong Kong mainstream.

Presented in association with IFVA and the Hong Kong Arts Centre.

This section will be updated regularly as new venues take part and films and times are confirmed. The Visible Secrets UK Tour is managed by the Independent Cinema Office.

The Visible Secrets UK Tour was launched at a special gala screening of Claustrophobia at Curzon Mayfair, London on Mon 2 Nov. Claustrophobia screened at Cornerhouse as the Closing Gala feature on Tue 3 November 20:30.

London | Curzon Mayfair

HKETO Gala Screening: Claustrophobia (PG)
Mon 2 November, 18:30
Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office, London present the UK premiere of Claustrophobia. This screening will be introduced by director Ivy Ho who will present for Q&A afterwards. This gala is also the launch of the UK tour.

Bristol | Watershed

Night and Fog | Friday, 22 January 2010
Lovers on the Road | Monday, 25 January 2010
The Way We Are | Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Wonder Women | Sunday, 31 January 2010


Chichester | Chichester Cinema at New Park

Anna & Anna | Sunday, 3 January 2010
The Floating Landscape | Sunday, 10 January 2010
The Postmodern Life of My Aunt | Sunday, 17 January 2010
Butterfly | Sunday, 24 January 2010
Night and Fog | Sunday, 31 January 2010

Derby | QUAD

The Postmodern Life of My Aunt | Monday 11 & Tuesday 12 January 2010
Visible Secret | Monday, 18 January 2010 & Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Ming Ming | Monday, 25 & Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Dundee | Dundee Contemporary Arts

Night and Fog | Monday, 18 January 2010
The Postmodern Life of My Aunt | Monday, 25 January 2010
Ming Ming | Monday, 1 February 2010
Visible Secret | Monday, 8 February 2010

Edinburgh | Filmhouse

Wonder Women | Friday, 15 January 2010
Anna and Anna | Monday, 18 January 2010
Ming Ming | Thursday, 21 January 2010
The Way We Are | Friday, 22 January 2010
July Rhapsody | Thursday, 28 January 2010
Visible Secret | Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Inverness | Eden Court

Ming Ming | Wednesday, 6 January 2010
Butterfly | Tuesday, 12 January 2010
The Floating Landscape | Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Visible Secret | Tuesday, 26 January 2010

London | Riverside Studios

Visible Secret | Thursday, 25 February 2010
Ming Ming | Thursday, 25 February 2010

Northampton | Forum Cinema

Anna & Anna | Sunday, 10 January 2010
Ming Ming | Sunday, 17 January 2010
July Rhapsody | Sunday, 24 January 2010

Nottingham | Broadway Cinema

Night and Fog | Friday, 4 December 2009
The Way We Are | Saturday, 5 December 2009
July Rhapsody | Sunday, 6 December 2009
The Postmodern Life of My Aunt | Thursday 10 December 2009
Visible Secret | Monday, 7 & Thursday 10 December 2009

Sheffield | Showroom

Anna & Anna | Friday, 22 January 2010
Wonder Women | Monday, 25 January 2010
Night and Fog | Wednesday, 27 January 2010
The Postmodern Life of My Aunt | Sunday, 31 January 2010

Season curators Sarah Perks Programme & Engagement Director at Cornerhouse and Andy Willis, Reader in Film Studies at University of Salford discuss director Ann Hui’s illustrious filmmaking past with her, in this fascinating interview…

Your 21st century films are quite eclectic. What has driven your choice of projects in recent times?
I shot Visible Secret after two years’ teaching and I thought, first, I’d better do a film that was marketable. My first film is also a thriller and I thought it was fun to revisit old grounds. Then followed a film which I was really interested in making (July Rhapsody), I thought I would never be able to raise funds for it but surprisingly it was accepted by the investor, so I made it. And so forth and so on… alternately, making films I really want to make and some I could just make so as to survive in the industry.


Could you talk a little about The Way We Are and Night and Fog? These films seem quite different stylistically; one very much informed by social realism and the other more melodramatic, yet each seems perfect for its subject matter. What made you select these different approaches to the setting of Tin Shui Wai?
The Way We Are was initially planned as a D.V. affair since I couldn’t find the money for Night and Fog. It’s also initially not about Tin Shui Wai but I decided to transport the whole setting to Tin Shui Wai. The script was already written 7 or 8 years ago about another housing estate but since I knew Tin Shui Wai well, and the lifestyle of all these housing areas are about the same, I thought it would be okay to transpose the whole story to the newest housing estate. The style of these two films is dictated by their subject matter; I hadn’t initially planned these two films as a diptych at all.

You have worked with a number of well-respected scriptwriters, such as Ivy Ho, could you talk a little about the process you go through with writers?
I work in different ways with different scriptwriters. With Ivy Ho, she initiated the story, we talked about it and then she went ahead to do the writing by herself, whilst I offered comments at every stage. But I made very little changes in the script for July Rhapsody. I am quite content to work on a good script I can identify with.

You seem to be very careful in the casting of your films, often, but not always, using very well known actors. Can you reflect on why and how you cast your films?
Casting is usually a compromise between the investors and me. I think of the suitability of the actors for the parts and the investors consider the marketability of the whole setup. Usually we come up with mutually satisfying compromises.

You have been a major figure within the Hong Kong film industry for a number of years. Has it been difficult to sustain a career over this period, and what have been the highs and lows during that time?
I have been making feature films since 1979. It is difficult but I don’t think more so than in any other job. I started off with four consecutive successes, both in terms of Box Office and critical acclaim, followed by ten years of almost uninterrupted failures. I made a comeback with Summer Snow, which was then followed by another flop. Since then I have been quite steady in my output but continued to be shaky at the Box Office, but by then it didn’t matter so much as all the local films after 1997 didn’t do so well, with very few exceptions.

What changes have you observed in the industry since 1997?
Since 1997, the local industry had gone steadily downhill. However, recently it has found some hopes in co-production with China and the Chinese market seemed heading for a boom.

Would you consider any of the shifts and changes in the Hong Kong film industry positive or do you feel they are mostly negative as they are often portrayed in the press?
I think all the shifts and changes are quite natural, as in any industry and any country. Films obviously have to follow the economics, the viewing habits, the cultural changes of a place and not really vice-versa.

Are you familiar with the work of other women directors working in the HK film industry? Whose work has impressed you?
I am familiar with the work of all the other women filmmakers in Hong Kong. Some of Mabel Cheung’s films are very impressive. I am also impressed by another new director, whose first work came out last year, Heiward Mak.

Do you think your career offers something of a role model for new women directors?
Within the Hong Kong film industry? No, I think the new generation of filmmakers have a completely different set of problems, strengths and weaknesses. It’s better for them to find their own way out. For example, I’ve never tried to be Leni Riefenstahl (director of Triumph of the Will)!

Finally, could you offer a brief comment on the Visible Secrets: Hong Kong’s Women Filmmakers season?
To be honest, I am not especially pleased to be slotted primarily as a “woman filmmaker”, but it’s okay with me. Plus, I see the relevance and the strength of having a distinctive subject and drift for promotional purposes. Above all, I am glad that my films can be shown and watched in other parts of the world. So thank you all for your efforts and my very best wishes for the success of the event!

Previously in this season

This Darling Life

Director Angie Chen explores 10 relationships between dog owners and their furry friends.

Read more

Preview Talk/ Visible Secrets

Sarah Perks, season curator and Programme & Engagement Director at Cornerhouse, will introduce the films of the Visible Secrets season, discussing the individual filmmakers involved.

Read more

Snapshots: Invisible City

Short film exploring the socio-cultural space of postcolonial Hong Kong. With an introduction from programme curator Tereza Kwong, Director of the Hong Kong Independent Film…

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Snapshots: These Shoes Weren’t Made for Walking

Short films dealing with cultural identity, history, and space from the experimental meditation in Invisible Body, to a focus on the role of women in…

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Snapshots: Où est la sortie?

Short films from Hong Kong, including Où est la sortie? which follows a Chinese woman’s life in Paris; and Scarlet Robe, the story of a…

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Visible Secret

This visually inventive combination of traditional ghost story and comedy sees Qi Shu play June, a woman who sees ghosts through her left eye! Of…

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July Rhapsody

An honest and upstanding teacher slowly realises he is falling for one of his students. Whilst this causes him some heart searching it slowly brings…

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Goddess of Mercy

A female police officer's life is turned upside down when she becomes involved with a handsome young man who is a drug smuggler. Walking the…

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The Way We Are

This quietly understated film follows the life of mother and son in Hong Kong’s ‘City of Sadness’, Tin Shui Wai. Shot on HD, Ann Hui…

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The Postmodern Life of My Aunt

An old fashioned woman finds the world modernising around her. In a series of vignettes she lands herself in trouble after falling for a small…

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Night and Fog

Night and Fog is an absorbing tale of a mainland Chinese woman’s experiences in Hong Kong’s Tin Shui Wai, or ‘City of Sadness’, housing complex.…

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One Hour Intro/ Ann Hui

Andy Willis, Reader in Film Studies at the University of Salford and Visible Secrets season curator, leads this introduction on one of Hong Kong’s most…

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Traces of a Dragon: Jackie Chan & His Lost Family

In the context of his mother’s poor health, Jackie Chan’s father decides to reveal the true story behind his family history; from lost siblings, and…

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Lovers on the Road

Winner of Best Feature at the Taiwan Film and Video Festival 2009, Tsang Tsui Shan's debut feature details the rocky relationship between Lei and her…

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The Decameron

An extremely engaging documentary that unites two Hong Kong female artists – film director Yan Yan Mak and Canto-pop star Denise Ho. Together they are…

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Wonder Women

Designed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover. Wonder Woman follows the events in the life of Joy, as the major events…

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Anna & Anna

Karena Lam plays Anna, a successful woman living in Singapore, but when she moves to Shanghai with her new job, she bumps into someone who…

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Ming Ming

Energetic gangster feature starring top mainland actress Zhou Xun in two contrasting roles, alongside Hong Kong heart-throb Daniel Wu.

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The Floating Landscape

After the death of her lover, a young woman sets out to find the landscape her artist boyfriend painted from a childhood memory. On her…

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High Noon

High Noon marks the feature film debut of 24 year old Heiward Mak and is a remarkable achievement for such a young director. Focusing on…

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Flavia is a married, thirty something teacher who feels she has to accept her life as it is until a chance meeting with an attractive…

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Expertly subtle performances from Hong Kong superstars Ekin Cheng and Karena Lam explore hidden emotions and the literal ‘claustrophobia’ of the 9-5 job. Including a…

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Secondary School

Tammy Cheung, one of Hong Kong’s most respected documentary filmmakers, chronicles the daily lives of two secondary schools, taking a close look at the troubled…

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Visible Secrets In Conversation

A two hour session including short presentations by leading academics and filmmakers looking at the impact of women on the Hong Kong Film Industry post-handover,…

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