Golden Gate Girls
2013 | 90 min |魏時煜S.Louisa Wei
纪录长片 Feature Documentary
魏時煜 S.Louisa Wei
伍錦屏 Sally Ng,小燕飛 Siu Yin Fei, 馬金鈴 Margareta Ma,朱迪絲梅因 Judith Mayne
羅卡 Law Kar, 魏時煜S.Louisa Wei
魏時煜 S.Louisa Wei
英中 English, Chinese
中英 Chinese, English
制作机构 Production Group
藍后文化傳播有限公司 Blue Queen Cultural Communication Ltd.
Hong Kong’s first “directress” was a San Francisco native and an open lesbian. Esther Eng (1914-1970) was a true pioneer in many senses. She made eleven Cantonese language films—one in Hollywood, five in Hong Kong, three in California, one in Hawaii and one in New York—all for Chinese audiences before, during and after WWII. She gave Bruce Lee his screen debut in his role as a baby girl in her 1941 film Golden Gate Girl. When production slowed in the 30s and 40s, she helped her father with his Chinese film import business and, later, ran theatres in New York that screened Chinese movies. While in New York City, she also opened at least four restaurants, including the Esther Eng Restaurant, a fine dining establishment frequented by celebrities like Marlon Brando and Tennessee Williams. Following her death in 1970, her obituary appeared in both Variety magazine and TheNew York Times.
After the retirement of director Dorothy Arzner in 1943 and before Ida Lupino began directing in 1949, Esther Eng was, in fact, the only woman directing feature length films in America. However, the most conspicuous trace of her can be found in the vestiges or her New York City restaurant: the store front forms part of the iconic cityscape that decorates the cover of Madonna’s first album. Drawing on the marks she left in both the Chinese and English press, this film begins to recover some of her lost stories. Clips from her two surviving films, stills and posters from her other eight motion pictures, photos from her six personal albums, newsreels of San Francisco as she saw them, as well as hundreds of archival images are all collected to present her life and the tumultuous time in which she lived in a stunning display of visuals.
Golden Gate Girls is not just a biographical portrait of Esther Eng; it is also a tribute to pioneer women filmmakers working on both sides of the Pacific, and the courage with which they crossed boundaries of language, culture, race and gender.
导演简历 Bio-Filmography of Director
S. Louisa Wei was born in China during the Cultural Revolution but mainly grew up in China’s post-Mao era. She left China in 1992 to study literature and film in Canada. In 2001, she moved to Hong Kong and has been making documentary films there since 2003. During the past thirteen years, she has been teaching film production, story writing, and media culture courses at City University of Hong Kong. Her oeuvre as a documentarian includes the short musical Cui Jian: Rocking China (2006, DV, 35 min), broadcasted on Channel 13 of Cable TV Hong Kong, the feature length filmStorm under the Sun (2009, DV, 139 min), which premiered at IDFA in 2007, and then in a vastly revised version at the HKIFF in 2009. Her most recent feature documentary is Golden Gate Girls (a.k.a. Golden Gate Silver Light), sponsored by the Hong Kong Art Development Council.
Storm under the Sun has not only received warm feedback from audience members and film critics, but has also been viewed by historians and sinologists as a rare effort and an in-depth representation of Mao’s first nation-wide purge of writers. Partially sponsored by International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam, Storm has been written about and reviewed in journals in as many as five languages. It is currently housed in the permanent collections of three museums, two archives, and over 60 university libraries worldwide.
Golden Gate Girl portrays the life and times of Esther Eng, once honored “China’s first woman director.” The documentary has received positive reviews and attention from The Hollywood Reporter, Voice of America, South China Morning Post, Film Business Asian, etc. Elizabeth Kerr of The Hollywood Reporter praised the documentary for “its seamless ability to weave history, Sino-U.S. relations and social standards together to allow for inference and context.”
Wei makes historical documentaries from an explicitly personal perspective as a means to advocate for significant figures and voices lost to historical process. She plays the simultaneous roles of director, writer, and editor, not to establish a singular subjective viewpoint, but to ensure that life and the people in her films are presented intact, with all the complexity and failings of human intellect and sense.
导演阐述 Director’s Statement
My first encounter with Esther Eng took place in 2001 when I began conducting research on Chinese women directors. This research originated from the realization that women’s stories often got lost in the course of history writing, particularly in film history. Recovering such stories has become the main focus of my academic career. I did not consider making a documentary on Esther Eng until early 2009 when over 600 photos from her personal collection—including many stills from her films—fell into my hands. Her career and her life seemed to be an extraordinary case in the history of Hong Kong filmmaking, one that gave rise to many intriguing questions.
When I began to dig further into materials concerning Esther Eng, I found a few factors that together seemed to contribute to her success. First, she started her career with Heartaches (1935), a filmwith a patriotic mission. This helped her establish a positive public image with audiences on both sides of the Pacific as the second Sino-Japanese War was underway. Second, the fact that her first film was filled in a Hollywood studio was stressed and even exaggerated in local press, which gave her immense credibility as a new and young filmmaker. Third, her directorial debut was also a critical and box office success that opened up opportunities for more projects. Finally, she was able to draw talent from the many Cantonese opera performers who visited North and Central America during the 1940s during and after WWII. For fourteen years of her life, she was an active professional filmmaker; but by the time of her death, she was mostly remembered as a restaurateur.
When reconstructing Esther’s life, I was constantly amazed by how many times she had personally journeyed across oceans, but even more so by her casual boundary crossing in her everyday life. In order to find the narrative that would leave the most vivid impression of Esther and her time on the mind of today’s audience, this film has already gone through eight complete versions.