July 14, 2017 at the Museum of American History we saw the Hong Kong film “Mad World” 一念无明 by the Hong Kong first time director 28 year old Chun Wong. The film portrays a stockbroker with bipolar mental depression disorder and his father and the reaction of the people around him to his mental illness after he is released from a mental hospital.
Chun Wong was at the showing to answer questions after the showing. He said that he got a grant to do the film from the HK government although they did not have creative control. He shot the film with two top HK actors in just 16 days on a low budget. He commented that censorship is getting worse in Hong Kong, although not as much as in film as in other areas. He said that constraints on filmmakers are largely due to their increasing dependence on mainland China investors to finance film productions. The film is in the Cantonese language with both Chinese and English subtitles.
Chun Wong answered a question about the meaning of the Chinese title of the film — 一念无明 in a question after the film. Wong said that the title is more meaningful than the English one “Mad World” — although the madness of the world is one aspect of the world reflected in the film. The title has several meanings, including the literal meaning of “ideas not being clear’ but also that people often have great difficulty grasping the viewpoints of other people.
Certainly this film and its meditation on mental illness and society deserves a wider audience. US audiences usually don’t like subtitled films though.
About six other HK films will be shown at the American History Museum through August 6th. Free courtesy of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in DC so you can’t beat the price! A Smithsonian website has the schedule of Hong Kong films being shown through August 6 at http://www.asia.si.edu/events/films.asp