Reel to Reel Film Heritage 2021-Rediscover and Restructure: Art and Sensuality in Ho Fan’s Cinema

Introduction / Aki Kung

At the first ‘Reel to Reel Film Heritage’ last year, we showcased newly restored, rediscovered and rarely seen films locally as we tried to fill in the missing parts of film history, and to explain the evolution of film technology in parallel with the discussion on the characteristics of film and digital media. On the other hand, we hoped to raise awareness on the preservation of audio-visual heritage, which would strengthen the exchange, education and research in this field. As digital restoration and online streaming platforms have been developing rapidly in the past 20 years, many governmental and commercial organisations have started their own restoration projects, and are speeding up the process of film digitisation of their collections. However, many of their projects are focusing on well-known feature films. The lost films found are only the tip of the iceberg.

‘Rediscover and Restructure: Art and Sensuality in Ho Fan’s Cinema’ originates from Mr Law Kar’s suggestion that Ho Fan’s two early experimental shorts— Big City – Little Man and Assignment, Part One (both 1966) should be restored. Sadly, no film material has been found for these two shorts at this time. As for Ho’s nearly 30 cinematic works, many of the negatives and screening copies are lost since they are mostly produced by independent companies. Some of the existing films are either damaged or sole copies, making circulation difficult and their artistic value neglected. With this first ever retrospective of Ho Fan in Hong Kong and Taiwan, the search for the screening materials is already challenging in its own right. Our selection criteria have to ensure the availability of screening materials while considering the overall maturity and quality of each individual work. We focus on including at least one film from each stage of his career, and intend to select those that have been rarely screened locally. One of the films, Lost (released in France in 1970, co-directed with Sun Po-ling), was a holy grail of sorts after it was thought to be lost for years. Fortunately, the sole existing copy has been found and digitised so it can appear on the screens of Hong Kong once again. We hope that this retrospective will help audience to rediscover this home-grown yet internationally renowned artist whose cinematic career has almost faded into obscurity.

Because of budgetary limitations, this year’s programme will not be able to include sections ‘A Quick History of Film Technology’ and ‘Contemporary Creative Works on Celluloid’. But thanks to the help from various parties, we have the honour to focus on the part of ‘Rediscover and Restructure’ and to present our first digitisation project, showing these lost and recovered works to the public.

We would like to thank the family of Mr Ho Fan, Mr Law Kar, Dr Timmy Chen, Ms Sarah Greene from the Blue Lotus Gallery, Broadway Cinematheque, Tai Kwun, Hong Kong Film Critics Society, Hong Kong Film Archive, Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute, all the film distribution companies and rights holders for their support and assistance!

A programme brochure of Ho Fan’s oral history, Filmography and researchers’ articles has been published and available at the screening venues.

*Unless otherwise specified, the release dates for films cited in this brochure are Hong Kong release dates.

The Way to Illumination / Law Kar

To his Hong Kong audience, Ho Fan had been known for his dual role as a master photographer and a famous erotic film director. The former, which won him numerous international accolades, was established early in his youth during the 1950s and 60s and for a time eclipsed by his work in the film industry since 1961 as actor and director. Despite having nearly 30 short and feature films under his belt over his 30-year career ranging from independent experimental works to commercial, lusty comedies, from erotica to melodramatic romances, as well as erotic films satirising modern relationships and melodramas in historical or contemporary rural settings exploring the conflicts between the spiritual and the sensual, and morality and individuality, Ho was often described by critics and audiences as a master director of erotic films, a label that scarcely does justice to his greater artistic pursuit and trajectory.

Retired from filmmaking in the 2000s, Ho's art photography drawn international attention again with published monographs and exhibitions, and was praised highly for capturing scenes of Hong Kong and its sentiments, while his films did not receive the recognition they deserve. This has driven me to propose to the Reel to Reel Institute an expansive film retrospective in 2021 for those interested in exploring Ho's artistic career and achievements. Welcomed with enthusiasm by the organisation, the proposal became 'Rediscover and Restructure: Art and Sensuality in Ho Fan's Cinema', a programme in preparation led by Aki Kung and Lau Yam since last year coinciding with a research project on Ho Fan's early experimental films by Dr. Timmy Chen from the Academy of Film at the Hong Kong Baptist University and a publication initiative by Sarah Greene, director of Blue Lotus Gallery which represents the photographer, in celebration of the 90th anniversary of his birth.

One might be underwhelmed viewing Ho Fan's films through the same lens with which one views his photography, as quite a few in the critics community were. A way to better understand Ho's transition from photography and fine art to film and popular entertainment, his ambitions, dedication and success as a filmmaker, and the setbacks and sacrifices along the way is to explore his films chronologically, starting from his independent experimental shorts and feature-length productions and move on to his 1972 commercial directorial debut Love and Blood before his films across genres from the 1970s to 90s. While with luck the long-lost 1970 independent feature Lost has been rediscovered, resources are still lacking for this effort. Films like the award-winning short Gulf (1966 in the UK) are missing and surviving prints of others are in poor condition. His major work Expensive Tastes (1982) is almost out of circulation since no digital copy is available. Not to mention the fact that there is little visual documentation and literature in existence and what a monumental task it is digging into the primary sources. Nonetheless, the study of Ho Fan's films has begun again and will hopefully carry on.

Back in the mid-1960s, Ho Fan was an active member of the College Cine Club, a group of young cinephiles passionate about film appreciation and discussion, as well as making and publicly screening experimental short films. A few years more experienced than his peers in independent filmmaking — and with more to show for it — he became a good friend from whom we sought advice. Whenever he had a new film coming out, he would also ask me for my opinion and we would discuss the way forward, with the regulations on cinema loosen opening up a whole new world for us to navigate in the 1970s. 1978 and 1979 saw a new wave of talents beginning their careers in television bursting onto the scene. Their works inspired by western filmmaking and aesthetics criticising contemporary Hong Kong society were popular among younger audiences and appealed to the market with a more authentic than ever sense of urban living, aptly expressing in a modern tempo and visual language the confusion, frenzy, and rage common in social relationships. This worldly temperament can also be seen in Ho Fan's films in the 1970s, with emphasis placed on the 'sexual' in urban human relationships — the confusion, turmoil and violence. His initial experiments in formal and sensorial beauty with the female form and sensual acts resulted in an audience that would only be satiated by lewd jokes, racy plots, rampage, provocation and eventually sexploitation. Ho’s name as a master director of erotic films came with the ball and chain of relentless societal and market pressure to conform. He knew better about himself than to succumb, and dedicated his work since the 1980s to reflecting on human desire, culminating in Yu Pui Tsuen in 1987 as he broke free from the constraints and expectations, achieving what he set out for.

Just as his protagonists, Ho was incessantly tempted on his artistic journey, as apparent in his decision to make Hidden Desire (1991), Temptation Summary (1990) and Temptation Summary II (1991) before moving to the United States. However, with Yu Pui Tsuen and The Sichuan Concubines (1994) later in his career, one may notice his aesthetic pursuit turning from self-expression to introspection and towards a return to the way of nature reclaiming his inner peace and true purpose.

Law Kar
A veteran film researcher and former curator of the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Hong Kong Film Archive. He has continued his research and writing on Chinese-language Cinema after retirement. Being a personal friend of Ho Fan, the two participated in the activities of College Cine Club in the 1960s.

Ho Fan's Biography

A native of Guangdong born in Shanghai on 8 October 1931, Ho Fan came to Hong Kong at the age of 18 and studied in The Evening School of Higher Chinese Studies and New Asia College. Ho has dedicated much of his time to literature and photography since his school days. His photography was well-known for using light, shadow and composition to create a sense of drama, capturing the appearance of small people in Hong Kong, and has won numerous international awards. His publications include Thoughts on Street Photography (Hai Kwang Press, 1959; Art Book Co. Ltd., Taiwan, 1975), Modern Photography (Art Book Co. Ltd., 1972), Complete Collections of Ho Fan’s International Award-Winning Photographic Art (European Languages Publication Ltd., 1982), Gone are the Days, a Memoir of Four Photographers (Next Publications Co. Ltd., 1993), Hong Kong Yesterday (Modernbook Editions, 2006), The Living Theatre (Modernbook Editions, 2009), A Hong Kong Memoir (Modernbook Editions & Asia One Books, 2014), Portrait of Hong Kong (We Press, 2017) and soon to be released Photography. My Passion. My Life. (We Press, 2021).

In 1961, Ho Fan began his film career by joining the Shaw Brothers as a continuity on The Swallow Thief, directed by Griffin Yueh Feng. He later became an actor. His most popular role was the Buddhist monk Tong in the series of films adapted from Journey to the West. He appeared in The Monkey Goes West (1966) and its three sequels of the same series: Princess Iron Fan (1966), The Cave of the Silken Web (1967) and The Land of Many Perfumes (1968). Ho was very fond of filmmaking. He made his first 8mm experimental film Big City - Little Man in 1963. He participated in the activities of College Cine Club in the mid-1960s, and made another experimental film Gulf (1966 in the UK), which won him the Best Film Award at the Banbury International Film Festival in the UK. Ho left the Shaw Brothers in 1969, and co-directed Lost with Sun Po-ling in the same year. The film premiered in France the next year. In 1972, he directed his first feature film Love and Blood (1972) and later started on the pre-production for Demon but the project was scrapped. During that period, he also made Adventure in Denmark (1973), and went to Italy for auditing film courses in Rome. Adventure in Denmark was well-received and the Shaw Brothers invited him back as a director on contract basis. Ho then directed Girl with the Long Hair (1975), Innocent Lust (1977), The Notorious Frame-up (1978) for them. He also made comedies such as The Adventurous Air Steward (1974) and art films like The Miserable Girl (1975 in Taiwan) for other companies.

Ho's family immigrated to the US in 1979 but he still shuttled back and forth between Hong Kong and Taiwan. He taught as a guest professor at various universities and colleges in the two places, and continued to direct in the 1980s and 90s with works such as Expensive Tastes (1982), Yu Pui Tsuen (1987), Erotic Nights (1989) and Temptation Summary (1990). During the period, he also focused on making art films and directed Taipei, My Love (aka Two for the Road, 1980  in Taiwan), Desire (aka The Lock of Hearts, 1986 in Taiwan) and L'Air Du Temps (1990 in Taiwan) in Taiwan. And was invited to be the jury for Golden Horse Awards in the early 1990s. His last directorial work was The Sichuan Concubines (1994). Ho reunited with his family in the US during the late 1990s. He passed away in California on 19 June 2016.


Ho Fan's Narrative Strategies and Film Style

Date & Time: 23.10.2021 (Sat) 17:45
Venue: House 2, Broadway Cinematheque

In Cantonese

Speakers: Lau Yam, Aki Kung

For Ho Fan’s nearly 30 cinematic works, the programme was able to cover only a few. The seminar will introduce some of his major films which are not included this time, such as Love and Blood (1972), Girl with the Long Hair (1975), Innocent Lust (1977), Expensive Tastes (1982) and Taipei, My Love (aka Two for the Road, 1980 in Taiwan), for the uniqueness of their narrative strategies and film style. The speakers will also share the challenges in searching for the screening materials.

Admission: HK$20

The charge of seminar can be waived when purchasing tickets of two or more different screenings with this seminar in the same transaction. This offer is applicable for screenings at Broadway Cinematheque and tickets purchased at the cinema box office only.


Ho Fan's Early Experimental Works

Date & Time: 06.11.2021 (Sat) 16:30
Venue: JC Cube, Tai Kwun

In Cantonese and Mandarin

Speakers: Law Kar, Timmy Chen

Ho Fan started making 8mm and 16mm experimental films with his fellows in the 1960s. He then joined the College Cine Club and participated in making and screening aumetur films. As a companion of Law Kar, Ho Fan also helped to edit his work Suspicion (1968). In this seminar, Law Kar will share the experience working with Ho Fan, and there will also be a presentation by Timmy Chen for a part of his academic research on Ho Fan’s photographic and cinematic works. Excerpts from Big City - Little Man and Assignment, Part One (both 1966) will be shown as well.

Admission: HK$20

HK$20 will be deducted from the total amount when purchasing tickets of one or more screenings with this seminar in the same transaction. This offer is applicable for screenings at Tai Kwun and tickets purchased at URBTIX.


Broadway Cinematheque
22/10 (Fri)19:30
The Miserable Girl ^
23/10 (Sat)
15:50The Notorious Frame-up ^
23/10 (Sat)17:45Seminar: Ho Fan's Narrative Strategies and Film Style
23/10 (Sat)19:35Hidden Desire 
24/10 (Sun)15:00The Sichuan Concubines ^
24/10 (Sun)
17:25L'Air Du Temps *
DateTimeJC Cube, Tai Kwun
3/11 (Wed)
Lost ^
6/11 (Sat)
14:30Yu Pui Tsuen ^
6/11 (Sat)16:30Seminar: Ho Fan's Early Experimental Works
6/11 (Sat)19:15Lost (Additional Screening)^

^Pre-screening introduction
*Post-screening talk


Tickets are available from 1 October 2021

Screenings at Broadway Cinematheque (BC)

Address: 3 Public Square Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon

HK$85  Standard
HK$68  Children, seniors, students and bc VIP member

HK$20  Seminar on ‘Ho Fan's Narrative Strategies and Film Style’

The charge of seminar can be waived when purchasing tickets of two or more different screenings with this seminar in the same transaction. This offer is applicable for screenings at Broadway Cinematheque and tickets purchased at the cinema box office only.

Ways to Purchase
Available at the cinema box office and self-service ticketing machine
Internet Booking:
Telephone Booking: 2388 3188

For online and telephone bookings, a handling charge of HK$8 (Mondays to Fridays) or HK$10 (weekends and public holidays) per ticket will be levied. All handling charges collected are non-refundable.
Screenings at JC Cube, Tai Kwun (TK)

Address: 10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong

HK$85  Standard
HK$68  Senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and the minder, full-time students

HK$20  Seminar on ‘Ho Fan's Early Experimental Works’

HK$20 will be deducted from the total amount when purchasing tickets of one or more screenings with this seminar in the same transaction. This offer is applicable for screenings at Tai Kwun and tickets purchased at URBTIX.

Ways to Purchase
Available at URBTIX outlets
Internet Booking:
Credit Card Telephone Booking: 2111 5999
Mobile App: My URBTIX (Android / iPhone)

Handling charges for Internet, mobile ticketing app or telephone booking is HK$8 per ticket, with HK$5 delivery charge per transaction for local delivery by regular mail. All handling charges collected are non-refundable.

Ticketing Enquiries: 3761 6661 (10am–8pm Daily)

Programme Enquiries

Tel: 6403 0720

Special Notes

All programmes are subject to change, updated information will be available on our website.

The Categories of some of the films in the programme are not yet rated by the Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration at the time this programme is being announced. If any films are classified as Category III, notice will be posted online.

All tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable unless for any alteration or cancellation of screenings by the presenter, and ticket holders under 18 years of age who buy tickets before the announcement of a film is classified as Category III, ticket holders may get a refund during the assigned period. Please refer to our website for refund procedures.

Parts of the Contents

Ho Fan's Filmography
Research Article (1): 'Ho Fan and Hong Kong Experimental Cinema in the 1960s'
Research Article (2): 'Ho Fan the Filmmaker, and Eroticism in Hong Kong (Cinema)'

Available at the following places:

•Blue Lotus Gallery (G/F, 28 Pound Lane, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong)
•Foo Tak Building (365-367 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong)
•Hong Kong City Hall (5 Edinburgh Place, Central, Hong Kong)
•Hong Kong Film Archive (50 Lei King Road, Sai Wan Ho, Hong Kong)
•Sai Wan Ho Civic Centre (111 Shau Kei Wan Road, Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong)
•Tai Kwun (Visitor Services, G/F, Block 03, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong)
•WMA Space (8/F Chun Wo Commercial Centre, 23-29 Wing Wo Street, Central, Hong Kong)
•Youth Square (238 Chai Wan Road, Chai Wan, Hong Kong)

•Academy of Film, Hong Kong Baptist University (CVA937, 9/F, Lee Shau Kee Communication and Visual Arts Building, 5 Hereford Road, Kowloon Tong, Kowloon)
•Broadway Cinematheque (Prosperous Garden, 3 Public Square St., Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon)
•Cattle Depot Artist Village (63 Ma Tau Kok Road, Ma Tau Kok, Kowloon)
•Film Culture Centre (Flat A2, 4/F, Acro Industrial Building, 19 Yuk Yat Street, To Kwa Wan, Kowloon)
•Hong Kong Cultural Centre (10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon)
•Hong Kong Film Critics Society Office (L6-24, JCCAC, 30 Pak Tin Street, Shek Kip Mei, Kowloon)
•Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre (JCCAC, 30 Pak Tin Street, Shek Kip Mei, Kowloon)
•Ngau Chi Wan Civic Centre (2/F, 11 Clearwater Bay Road, Kowloon)

•Sha Tin Town Hall (1 Yuen Wo Road, Shatin, N.T.)

*Limited in quantity and are given on first-come, first-served basis while stock lasts.*


Programming Team: Aki Kung, Lau Yam, Janis Law, Gladys Lau
Programme Consultant: Law Kar

Translators: Erica Leung, Francisco Lo
Design: Be Woks~

Special thanks to

Dr Timmy Chen
The Family of Mr Ho Fan
Ms Sarah Greene / Blue Lotus Gallery Hong Kong


Mr Jim Lau
Ms Helen Lui
Dr Wang Chun-Chi
Ms Yuen Tsz Ying

Celestial Pictures Limited
Entertaining Power Company Limited
Hong Kong Film Archive, Leisure and Cultural Services Department
My Way Film Company Limited

© 2021 Reel to Reel Institute Limited
All rights reserved. The publication, reproduction, extraction or transmission of all or part of the programme, in any way without the prior consent of Reel to Reel Institute, is prohibited.