Having written film criticism for much of my life, I only became a director recently. It is a little late but I am very grateful because it was a dream come true for me to adapt Mr. Liu Yi-chang’s The Drunkard-a masterwork renowned for being China’s first ever stream of consciousness novel and had long been considered “unfilmable”.
Many people asked me, “You used to write reviews critiquing others’ films. Now that that you are a director, how does it feel to have the tables turned, becoming the subject of criticism?” I don’t think there is much difference between the roles. Film criticism cannot be done thoughtlessly. Readers are going to notice the quality of your review and form an opinion of you as a critic based on your insights and writing skills. I know all too well the flaws and shortcomings of The Drunkard. But from my perspective, the film is also a measure of a critic’s excellence.
Freddie Wong Kwok-shiu was born in Hong Kong in 1949. After graduating from New Method College in 1966, he became a radiographer at a government hospital. Meanwhile, he took French classes at Alliance Française de Hong Kong and began writing film reviews for The Chinese Student Weekly. In 1973, he co-founded the Phoenix Cine Club with fellow cinephiles Kam Ping-hing, George Chang Lok-yee and Kenneth Ip (Shu Kei) and others. In 1976, Wong was awarded a scholarship by the French government to study film at the Conservatoire Libre du Cinéma Français (CLCF) in Paris. While in France, he worked as an assistant to director Alain Corneau. When he returned to Hong Kong in 1979, Wong became a programmer for the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) until 1983, when he entered the film industry, first as assistant director for Clifford Choi’s Hong Kong, Hong Kong (1983) and then production coordinator for Tony Au’s The Last Affair (1983).
Despite his foray in film production, Wong remains deeply interested in film criticism and organizing film festivals. Since 1993, he had worked as film programme manager at the Hong Kong Arts Centre, general manager of business development at Edko Films and director of Broadway Cinematheque. From 1999 to 2001, Wong was the president of the Hong Kong Film Critics Society. In May 2009, Wong was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication for his contributions to the exchange between Chinese and French cultures, especially in the field of film art and criticism.
In 2010, Wong directed his first film, adapting noted author Liu Yi-chang’s The Drunkard, which is lauded as the first stream-ofconsciousness novel written in Chinese language. Wong also served as producer of the film, which was screened at over 20 international film festivals and which earned him a nomination for Best New Director at the Hong Kong Film Awards. While preparing for his sophomore project, Wong is a guest lecturer at the Academy of Film of the Hong Kong Baptist University and the associate publisher of Hong Kong Literature Study, a publishing house that specializes in literary criticism.
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