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The Next Reel • Season 11 • Series: Ann Hui / Journalists • Boat People

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Boat People

"The government doesn’t let us mix with foreigners. You’ll get us into trouble if you take photos here.”

Ann Hui had been working on a documentary for a Hong Kong network when she interviewed a number of ‘boat people,’ people fleeing Vietnam from the rule of China. This piqued her curiosity in the subject and defined her next two films, The Story of Woo Viet and Boat People. This ‘Vietnam Trilogy’ of hers, and particularly the last film, gave Ann Hui a boost in her career as it took off around the world, marking her as one of the Hong Kong New Wave directors. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we close out our series on Hui as well as kick off a series on journalists with her 1982 film Boat People.

Boat People gives us the blank slate reporter we’ve been looking for.

There are many comments and reviews about this film that dislike the portrayal of the journalist as being too naïve. For us, it feels like a character choice and works well to set up the film as a journey for this photographer – our audience surrogate – as the layers are slowly peeled back to reveal what sort of atrocities are really going on in China-ruled Vietnam after the US left.

Add to that exceptional child actor performances as the kids that connect with our photographer, not to mention the visceral violence that shakes us up, and it’s easy to see why this film affects us. The cinematography, the music, the locations, the performances, the direction – everything works well to deliver a powerful film that depicts a unique conflict in this part of the world we learned little about in our history books.

We have differing opinions on how well the film stuck with us, but no matter how you slice it, it was a film that affected us and worked well. We have a great conversation about it so check it out then tune in. The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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