A Japanese reporter arrives in Vietnam hoping to capture the essence the society under the rule of the Communist Party. With the help of a vietnamese girl, he eventually opens his eyes to the painful truth of postwar Vietnam. Written by
When Yun-Fat Chow turned down the role of To Minh, he recommended to producer Meng Xia a young actor, who had just worked with him on a TV series. Chow didn't know the actor by name. Leading man George Lam spoke of a young actor who played a small role in a movie starring Lam. The young actor made quite an impression and Lam thought the young man would fit in the role of To Minh. But he didn't know the actor by name. As the shooting began in Hainan Island and the role of To Minh was still undecided, the whole crew became anxious. Cinematographer David Chung suggested another young actor and Meng Xia went to meet with him. Xia finally cast the young actor as To Minh. The actor was Andy Lau, who happened to be the same unknown actor who Yun-Fat Chow and George Lam referred to. See more »
This film, which was released in 1982 in Hong Kong to rave reviews and packed theaters, was one of the very few "politicized" films made in Hong Kong. Since then Ann Hui has continued to engage such subjects, but out of the contemporary HK filmmakers, only Fruit Chan could be said to be a match for Ann Hui in these politicized subject matters.
"Boat People" is essentially a dramatization of the political realities facing common Vietnamese people after the Communist Liberation of 1976. Hui has very shrewdly utilized a dramatic structure (rather than a documentary) to show us the truth behind the Vietnamese Communist regime, which forces so many commoners to leave as refugees by boat to elsewhere in Asia. Hui never overplays the emotions or the drama, instead choosing to tell the story straight. The deaths, the harsh facts, all come across very strongly, but like what one IMDb reviewer has said, there is no preaching, nor are there any strenuous effort to make a statement as in American Vietnam movies. Ann Hui herself stated that she made many interviews of Vietnamese refugees before she decided to dedicate herself into making this movie.
The whole film is shot in China, Hainan Island, with the support of the Chinese Communist Party. Some critics read the movie as a reflection of anxiety on the coming 1997 Communist takeover of Hong Kong, but Ann Hui herself never appears to indicate this was her intent. The movie has dialogue almost entirely in Cantonese (the language of Hong Kong, the place of production); Vietnamese is used sparingly, as in the songs, but most Westerners may not be able to tell the difference. The cast is almost entirely Chinese, but Ann Hui probably selected most of them because of their facial resemblance with the Vietnamese. It is impossible to tell that the female lead, Season Ma, is not Vietnamese (she is Chinese).
Three decades later, this film still remains Ann Hui's most considerable achievement. It was voted in 2002 as #8 of the best Chinese films of all times by the Hong Kong Film Academy. The film's impact is such that it made many of Ann Hui's later political films, such as "Ordinary Heroes", seem quite tame in comparison. But it's such a pity so few people in the IMDb has seen this movie - as of 2009, only slightly more than a hundred people has voted in the IMDb. This is an arresting film on an important subject that it needs to be seen by anyone remotely interested in the Vietnam problem - even though the political situation of Vietnam has moved on a lot since the late 1970s.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?