Boat People

dir. Ann Hui

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Ann Hui's brutal, beautiful and impossibly moving political drama about the dire straits of postwar Vietnam was a key work of the Hong Kong New Wave and is frequently named as the best Hong Kong film of all time by both critics and audiences.

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"Unquestionably one of the most important films in Hong Kong cinema" (Edmund Lee, Time Out Hong Kong). Ann Hui, the great humanist of the Hong Kong New Wave, first began mixing elements of documentary and fiction in her work for television, and after some milestone achievements in genre cinema (including The Spooky Bunch, screening on July 30) she received great acclaim both at home and abroad for this superlative political drama, which is frequently named as the best Hong Kong film of all time by both critics and audiences. Returning to Vietnam three years after documenting its liberation by Ho Chi Minh's Communist forces, a Japanese photojournalist now encounters a country in a state of perpetual fear and paranoia, living under the omnipresent threat of state brutality and horrific forced-labour camps. Though the film is charged by pressing contemporary concerns — namely providing some context for the scores of emaciated Vietnamese refugees washing up on Hong Kong shores at the time — it has also been interpreted as an allegory about the then-heated debate about the handover of Hong Kong to the Mainland. Brutal, beautiful and impossibly moving, Boat People has both the immediacy of a news broadcast and a poetry paradoxically born of fear and despair.