Praise for The Life and Times of Wu Zhong Xian:
"The legacy of political activist Wu Zhongxian is fondly recalled by his friend and fellow revolutionary, Mok Chiu-Yu, in director Evans Chan's mostly straightforward filming of Mok's acclaimed 1997 stage play. Essentially a small-scale, one-man show, in which Mok gives a bravura performance as both himself and Wu, pic nonetheless manages to convey a sweeping sense of Chinese countercultural activity throughout the decades, and should become a well-traveled fest item, of highest interest to Asiaphiles and theater buffs.
Wu fought, at various times, against capitalism, colonialism and misinterpreted Marxism, always with an eye toward what he believed was in China's best interest. Rarely departing from a single set, Chan and Mok use inventive monologues to trace their subject's varied life, from his earliest days as a campus radical to his untimely death from cancer, in 1994. Wu's stints as magazine editor, prisoner and spy are also covered, along with the internal conflicts that saw the implosion of (or Wu's expulsion from) nearly every organization of which he was a member; the cumulative effect is a profound sense of the perils by which ordinary people attempt to change the system."
-- Scott Foundas, VARIETY
"Wu Zhongxian died of cancer in 1994, relatively young, after a lifetime of always troublesome dissidence. He first made himself heard in the Hong Kong youth movement in the early 1970s, campaigning with equal force against capitalism, colonialism and authoritarian communism. He co-founded the Revolutionary Marxist League, and was later expelled from it. He edited the Chinese edition of Playboy and crammed in political essays and interviews between the nudes. Other publishing ventures failed, and he emigrated to Australia with his family. He returned to Hong Kong only to die, but was still agitating for the release of Chinese democracy activists on his deathbed.
Mok Chiu-Yu was a friend and comrade in
the 1970s, and his play (first performed in June 1997) is a funny, loving
and inspirational chronicle of Wu's life in all its messy contradictions.
Evans Chan is not the first person to film it (Ann Hui incorporated parts
of it in her Ordinary Heroes) but he has done it proud: providing political
and historical context with captions and archive newsreel, making unexpected
connections (clips from John Woo's avant-garde gay short Deadknot), and
broadening the frame to suggest that Wu Zhongxian's life stands for an
undying current in modern Chinese thought."
-- Tony Rayns, Vancovuer International Film Festival 2003
"The Life and Times of Wu Zhong Xian is an
extremely touching and historically important record of a Hong Kong social
activist whose relevance extends to the present. Based on a two-man stage
show, the film combines theatrical performance, archival footage, and
dramatic reconstruction to depict the poignant personal and political
trajectory of an activist formed by the turbulent 60s, historically
-- Tony Williams, Professor of Film, Southern Illinois University
"The Life and Times of Wu Zhong Xian is a highly affectionate and wildly irreverent tribute to the career of one of the most important Asian political activists of the late 20th century. Although little-known outside of his native Hong Kong, Wu Zhong Xian -- together with a small band of fellow New-Left Trotskyists and Anarchists that included Mok Chui-Yu, actor/director of the stage drama, on which Evans Chan's DV film is based -- played a key role from the late 1960s onwards in the birth and development of Hong Kong's fledgling civil rights and pro-democracy movement. No one seeking to understand the historical origins and significance of the massive public protests (involving some 500,000 demonstrators) that took place in Hong Kong on July 1, 2003, against the HK government's proposed "anti-subversion" legislation can afford to miss this fascinating new film.
In a series of vivid and moving sketches, Life and Times charts the entire course of Wu Zhong Xian's career: from its beginnings in the popular movement against British colonial rule in Hong Kong (ignited by Wu and his comrades in the late 60s); through the campaign by Hong Kong leftwing activists to support their imprisoned comrades from the 1979 "Democracy Wall" movement on the China mainland (Wu was arrested and threatened with life imprisonment by China's secret police while on a mission to help the detainees' families in early 1981); and ending with the massive public demonstrations in Hong Kong in the summer of 1989 against the June 4 massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square (again, Wu was at the forefront of organizing the solidarity movement in Hong Kong.)
Life and Times doesn't shy away from exploring the more controversial aspects of Wu's political career, which was sadly cut short by his death from cancer in 1994. Indeed, only people who admire him, like the makers of this film, could have had the courage to produce such an honest yet deeply compassionate account of Wu's personal limitations and failings, to set alongside his many victories and triumphs. For Wu was certainly no saint -- either politically or personally -- and it is a mark of this film's integrity that it shows us the truthful story of a man who fought hard for his beliefs all his life, only to be rejected in the end by his own comrades because he somehow fell short of their excessively strict and romantic image of how a "leftwing hero" was supposed to behave. As always, however, truth emerges in this film as being much more interesting and endearing than any romantic fantasy could be."
-- Robin Munro, former director of Human Rights Watch (HK/China office), is the International Director for the HK-based NGO, China Labour Bulletin.
Hong Kong Arts Centre藝術中心: 好電影GOOD MOVIES
《吳仲賢的故事》 The Life
and Times of Wu Zhong Xian
14, 22 Nov 7:30pm
Each programme will be accompanied by a post-screening discussion (conducted in Cantonese).
14 Nov <回顧火紅年代> Looking Back on the Fiery
16 Nov <社運劇場.社運媒介> Social Activism: Theatre
22 Nov <香港社運前瞻> The Future of Social Activism
in Hong Kong
23 Nov <與導演對談> Meeting Evans Chan (interviewer:
合辦Co-presented with: 亞洲民眾戲劇節協會 Asian People's
Theatre Festival Society