Ballad on the Shore

家‧鄉‧歸 Home. Homeland. Homecoming

Ballad on the Shore (Screening + Sharing)
Speaker: Ma Chi Hang (Film Director) and Fisherman
Moderator: Chiu Chu Lee

About the Film

On the small isle of Tap Mun, the ocean breeze gently lifts up strands of grey hair on Lai Lin-shau’s head. He quietly sings in the characteristic tones of the fisherman’s ballads: Anchor large boats at the tip of To Nin, a sampan sends the lover to Sai See Island.....”. The melody alters with his moods and, seemingly without rules, the pitch and tones alternate and repeat themselves as if they were synchronising with the ocean waves.  The lyrics of these ballads tell the stories of the trials and tribulations of the life of the fisherman. The Lai family had, for generations, fished for a living in the waters of Tap Mun, their ballads are passed down from one generation to the next, but the songs are finding fewer and fewer listeners today. Born before WWII, Mr. Lai has been wed to his wife for over 60 years. He is one of the few people alive who knows the fisherman’s ballads intimately. None of his children followed the ancestral path of a fisherman, and none experienced the harsh and unforgiving life at sea. They are not even aware of his singular and priceless knowledge of the ballads.

The deeply tanned skin with a whiff of sea salt coming off their bodies are the distinctive signs of an ex-fisherman to the city dwellers. As the fishing community shrinks, they found new ways of life on land. One performs and teaches the ballads to young children; another uses the ballads to spread her Christian faith. The ballads have become a spiritual harbour for these landed fishermen and appear to offer solace and certain selective nostalgia to a life of hardship. These ballads were once part of the nautical landscape of Tap Mun and as the memories of the fishermen’s past lives fade, the words and melodies have come ashore bringing spiritual serenity to those who would hear the songs of the sea.

About the Director

He receives his B.A. in Fine Arts and M.A in Philosophy from The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Attributed to the trainings on fine arts and philosophical thinking, his films have a thematic consistency on humanity and justice. Short films, Women Security Guard (2015) was awarded Silver Award in Incubator for Film and Visual Media (IFVA). Malinois Gaze (2016) made a presence in several film festivals, including Clermont-Ferrard Short Film Festival and Chinese Independent Film Festival. He moves on to directing his own feature films.

His latest documentary film, Ballad on the Shore (2017) is widely reputed for its poetic handling on a disappearing local fishermen culture. The film opens an active dialogue on the unconquerable vanishes of old cultures, attracting over 50 pieces of critic reviews and extensive media coverage. The film was selected to the 2016 CNEX pitching forum. He is the founding member of an emerging independent film organisation Autonomous Cinema, promoting film culture and community education.

In Cantonese

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