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Review of the documentary “Elegies” (2023) directed by Ann Hui.
Review of the documentary "Elegies" (2023) directed by Ann Hui.

Review of the documentary “Elegies” (2023) directed by Ann Hui.

During times of hardship, art can serve as a source of comfort for many individuals. Amidst the current pandemic, people have sought not only entertainment and a distraction from the constant stream of negative news, conspiracy theories, and opinions, but also a narrative that can provide understanding and solace. For esteemed filmmaker Ann Hui from Hong Kong, the poetry she encountered in her academic and personal life served as a spiritual refuge and inspired her to create a film about the authors who influenced her. Titled “Elegies”, this project has been a long-time passion for Hui and was recently showcased at the Busan International Film Festival. In the film, Hui interviews these poets, as well as their loved ones, about their works, their perspectives on issues such as the political and economic state of Hong Kong, and most significantly, their thoughts on the relevance of literature in our current society.

The film Elegies will be shown at the Busan International Film Festival.

According to Hui, “Elegies” is not a mainstream film. This statement can also apply to many of her other works, but it holds true for her recent project, which may not be familiar to most viewers. The names of Wai Yuen, Huang Can-ran, and Liu Wai-tong, as well as their poems, will likely be new to many audiences. However, this film serves as an introduction to these figures and highlights their significance within their culture. Hui’s simple yet impactful approach involves conversations with the authors themselves, making the subject more relatable and intriguing. We hear the background behind some of the poems, either before or after experiencing them ourselves.

Also, be sure to take a look at this interview.

At times, Hui chooses not to include contextual background for the poems and instead showcases different scenes in Hong Kong to further enhance or expand upon the words. These parts are arguably the strongest aspects of the documentary “Elegies” as they highlight the diversity of each poem, including observations of everyday life, the contrast between city and rural life, and the evolving political climate in Hong Kong, potentially influenced by recent protests. Ultimately, these words and their underlying meaning will likely be the most enduring elements of the documentary, particularly for diligent readers who have already researched their favorite authors. Although the authors’ musings may be entertaining, they do not offer anything new to well-informed readers.

The film “Elegies” explores the world of Hong Kong poets, delving into the impact of the written word and how it can convey a deeper and more thought-provoking truth. For those with limited knowledge of Hong Kong literature, Ann Hui’s passion project serves as an engaging and accessible introduction to this aspect of HK culture.