The kung fu fem­i­nist

A kung fu take on the tale of a fe­male rev­o­lu­tion­ary is di­rec­tor her­man yau’s way of at­tract­ing the au­di­ence.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By YIP WAI YEE

HONG Kong di­rec­tor Her­man Yau is noth­ing if not com­mer­cially ori­ented. He knew his new movie, his­tor­i­cal biopic The Wo­man Knight Of Mir­ror Lake, needed some­thing ex­tra to bring in the au­di­ence.

The film is about a his­tor­i­cal fig­ure whom many peo­ple prob­a­bly have not heard of.

Qiu Jin, who is played by Chi­nese ac­tress Huang Yi, was one of the most prom­i­nent fe­male rev­o­lu­tion­ists in the fight to bring down the cor­rupt Qing em­pire, which fell in 1912.

The movie’s ap­peal is also lim­ited by the fact that the only big names in the cast – Hong Kong ac­tors An­thony Wong and Kevin Cheng – have small sup­port­ing roles.

Yau’s brain­wave: turn it into some­thing closer to his 2010 movie, The Leg­end Is Born - Ip Man, a pre­quel to the pop­u­lar movies about the grand­mas­ter of the Wing Chun style of mar­tial arts.

“I needed to repack­age the film in some way, and I thought that kung fu would be a good way to do that.

“Hope­fully, peo­ple who watch the film will en­joy the kung fu scenes but, at the same time, be in­ter­ested enough about Qiu that they will then go and look up books or in­for­ma­tion about her af­ter the movie,” he says in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

He also tweaked cer­tain his­tor­i­cal de­tails in the story to bet­ter fit his over­all vi­sion for the movie. For ex­am­ple, he made the char­ac­ter of Qiu’s loyal ser­vant Fu Sheng mute, de­spite no his­tor­i­cal records stat­ing this.

He says: “I did that be­cause I wanted to in­ject some sym­bol­ism into the story. Qiu was a re­mark­able cham­pion of women’s rights at a time when most women were silent about be­ing treated as in­fe­rior to men.

“Fu Sheng thus sym­bol­ises the type of si­lence suf­fered by all the women around Qiu.”

Some of Qiu’s descen­dants have not taken well to Yau’s re­vi­sions. One al­most slammed the door in the film­maker’s face.

Yau says: “I tried to con­tact as many of Qiu’s fam­ily mem­bers as pos­si­ble be­cause I re­ally wanted them to watch the film and tell me what they thought.

“But one of them, a de­scen­dant of Qiu’s brother, re­fused to watch my film even though I took a copy of it to his house in China. He didn’t think any non-re­lated peo­ple had the right to tell Qiu’s story, I think.”

The re­sponse from the mem­bers of Qiu’s fam­ily who did watch the movie has been gen­er­ally pos­i­tive, ac­cord­ing to Yau.

He says: “Some of them were cry­ing non- stop when they watched the movie. They ap­pre­ci­ated the fact that I was get­ting Qiu’s story out.”

Qiu, who was also a poet, was ex­e­cuted af­ter a failed upris­ing. She is con­sid­ered a hero­ine in China to­day.

Yau says: “I am a big fan of Qiu. So to me, as long as I rep­re­sent her fairly and get her mes­sage across to peo­ple, I think it’s fine.” n The­wom­anknightofmir­ror­lake opens in Malaysian cine­mas to­day.

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