A wonderful documentary about the auteur Ann Hui. Keep Rolling is an exploration into her storied career that links in perfectly with her personal life. For those unfamiliar with Hui, this remains an open & appealing introduction to the filmmaker.
A forerunner of the Hong Kong New Wave, Ann Hui’s tumultuous, forty-year career is an unequivocal testimony to her unyielding dedication to filmmaking and her expedition into the metamorphic city.
Man Lim-Chung’s directorial debut presents his audience with an in compassing love letter to a veteran filmmaker who has been highly influential to the Hong Kong film industry. Wisely we do not just focus on her career, and we start off at the very beginning of her life as we listen to her family discuss how young Ann Hui was. From here, we see a direct connection between her personal life and her films. Much like we saw in Truman and Tennessee, great artists, be it, writers or auteurs, always take something from their own lives and find ways to run with it in their own creative way. Here we clearly see how she utilises her private life in her films, and it quickly reels you into this person.
With a rich array of talking-head interviews, archival footage and photographs and current footage of her on sets as she directs, we get an all-encompassing idea of who this person is. At times, some animation comes in, and if anything that takes us away from Keep Rolling as so much is based in reality, you don’t want to remove yourself from it. By having such various methods, you almost become distracted by the volume of information thrown at you.
Usually, when a film is so heavy with content, it can feel as if it drags, it never does here, and Man should be congratulated for having Keep Rolling edited so well that the 100 odd minutes fly by with the greatest of ease. Also, he chooses to keep a linear narrative by starting off from the beginning of our subjects’ lives. This allows us to see her look back fondly to her beginning and joke playfully that she wouldn’t hire a student to be a first director for her as she doesn’t have the patience as her mentor had for her.
What shocks is the number of people willing to give glowing comments towards Ann Hui, yet, other than cinephiles, she is not so widely known. Especially so considering how instrumental she is to that Hong Kong scene. She will find all of the deserving love from Keep Rolling and get the prominence she truly deserves with some luck.
As for Ann Hui herself, she is so open to discussing her life, be it personal or her career, that there is bound to be hours upon hours of footage left on the cutting room floor that could easily have been included. Equally, this openness allows us to delve so much further into her life than you would expect in such a film. Usually, these are fluff pieces to show us how great and wonderful someone is. Man, however, wants to ask some fairly hard-hitting questions about not wanting to ever get married, to her lack of interest in the box office and marketing of her pictures. She is very much a filmmaker who wants to create the film and then move on to the next.
She chooses projects that resonate with her, and if they do not turn a great profit, then so be it. Similarly, by being so devoted to her work, she saw no time for a marriage, for she was already married to her career. Ann Hui’s personable attitude is wholly refreshing. By presenting us with a subject that is an open book, we can immediately find avenues to relate to her, especially when Man takes the film down some sadder avenues.
For those unfamiliar with Ann Hui, which honestly, I have to include myself in that category, this is a joyous film to introduce me to her work. Without a shadow of a doubt, this very well made documentary will have me scouring for her work, and with a forty-year career, I have a lot of catching up to do. For those who know of Ann Hui, Keep Rolling does a terrific job of being so detailed that there is without a doubt something for you here to grasp upon and love.
Keep Rolling is available via Chinese Cinema Season’s “Hong Kong, Reimagined” curated section.
Festival Website: www.chinesefilm.uk
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