A Q&A with Hong Kong director Ann Hui followed the January 5, 2011, Variety ArcLight Hollywood screening of A Simple Life (Tao Jie), a Best Foreign Language Film selection of the 84th Academy Awards.
Starring Andy Lau, Deanie Ip, Hailu Qin, Paul Chiang, and Wendy Yu, the foreign language film (Cantonese with English subtitles) is drawn from the life of Hong Kong producer Roger Lee, who co-wrote the script with Susan Chan. Ip, named Best Actress at the 2011 Venice Film Festival, plays Ah Tao, the Leung family’s faithful, domestic helper (amah) who has served for the past 60 years and suffers a stroke while serving Roger (played by Lau), the only family member left in Hong Kong. Roger chooses to care for Ah Tao while she’s in a nursing home and as her health deteriorates. The film, which was filmed in 30 days, unashamedly reveals the reality of growing old and life in a nursing home, and the rare bond between master and servant.
On the biggest challenge that she faced while directing, Ann Hui said, “to make the audience, especially the local [Hong Kong] audience, believe that Andy Lau is not a star.” According to Hui, few films center on Hong Kong life, which she has captured well in A Simple Life.
Does she plan to cross over to Western films? “I am 64,” said Hui with a laugh. “I had better stay in subjects I do best.”
Running time: 117 min.