Director Hui See-wai Tells the Story of Hong Kong's Hand-painted Movie Posters in “The Posterist”
Hui on his filmmaking family, Hong Kong cinema and the subject of his film, the artist Yuen Tai-yung.
What can you tell us about “The Posterist”? It’s a biography documentary about Mr. Yuen Tai-yung, a Chinese artist known for the creation of more than 200 iconic Hong Kong movie posters. These posters include many films from Bruce Lee, Hui brothers, Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow; kung fu, comedy, you name it. They’re mainly from the 70s and 80s, and some from the 90s.
Your father, Michael Hui, is a famous filmmaker and actor, and part of the legendary Hui Brothers. Did your family work with Mr. Yuen? Actually, my father and my uncles are the beneficiaries of Mr. Yuen’s work, because Mr. Yuen drew posters for 17 of their movies back in the 70s and 80s. I think eight or 10 of them were number one box office hits in Hong Kong.
What significance does your father play in the film? They had met once, 40 years ago. Mr. Yuen kept a photo of that meeting, when they first collaborated on their first movie poster back in 1975. Mr. Yuen shared it with me last year and I was enthralled by the relationship between the film director and the movie poster artist, who despite only meeting once had collaborated on 17 movies. I arranged a second meeting between the two of them, which I captured in my documentary.
Read More: Lee Sing-man, aka Uncle Man, Teaches Hong Kong People the Art of Paper Tearing
Read More: Artist Water Poon Shares His Passion For Chinese Ink Painting
How did you feel making the film, knowing your family had this connection with Mr. Yuen? It was very personal to me, very sentimental. I’m very grateful to Mr. Yuen, and so is my whole family. My film is very much a tribute to him.
Have you always worked in film? I owned and ran a chain of cafes and dessert restaurants in China for 10 years. Two years ago I started visiting Hong Kong to sort out family business. One of the projects was to clean old film negatives. Most of them were over 40 years old. They were faded and rotten, basically unrecognizable. I cleaned them, scanned them in, restored each frame using software, and we released them as a Blu-Ray boxset. I made a short documentary about that process. It was a privilege to be able to take this old stuff and make it new again for the next generation.
Has it changed how you see Hong Kong cinema? The one thing I learned most was to appreciate the art of it. At that time these films were comedies and blockbusters. When we rewatch them, they carry a completely different sentiment. It’s a piece of Hong Kong heritage.