17 Sep 17:30
Queen Mary University of London
Ping Pong 浮云游子 + panel
Dir Po-Chih Leong | UK | 1986 | 100min
Sam Wong, the owner of a Chinese restaurant in London’s Chinatown, dies in a phone booth. As a favor to her uncle, a young law student, Elaine Choy, agrees to probate Sam’s will, but finds that the task is less than trivial.
Released in 1986, Ping Pong made history as the first British feature film written and directed by a British-Chinese filmmaking team. The film asks what it means to be Chinese-British with intergenerational gaps and differences. A witty comedy-thriller, Ping Pong revolves around the death of Sam Wong, the owner of a Chinese restaurant in London’s Chinatown, who is found dead in a phone booth. As the many heirs of the family argue over the terms of the will, Elaine Choi, a young lawyer-in-training is asked to execute the Chinese will that she can’t even read. Elaine attempts to earn the trust of the family across language barriers, as her inability to speak Cantonese to the family serves to reinforce her position as an outsider, as someone who has lost her own Chinese identity.
The film explores the slipperiness of identity through Choi’s sense of double consciousness. As she attempts to forge her own identity in England, without obliterating her Chinese roots, she is both drawn to her cultural background and history, but at the same time, she is dismissive of some of the older customs which are revered by the older generation.
Rather than attempting to define a stable sense of identity, Ping Pong brilliantly portrays a conglomeration of different voices – speaking to and over and with each other. More than anything, it brilliantly deconstructing any kind of stable Chinese identity to show how cultural identity is always in motion. Brilliantly elucidated by Ian Wang for LWLIES, we see that “Ping Pong’s poignancy lies not in its willingness to define British Chineseness for a general audience but in how it expresses the elusive nature of such a definition for the diverse community it represents.”
( Text by Cici Peng )
After-screening panel discussion with Professor Cangbai Wang, Actress Lucy Sheen and Writer Ian Wang, moderated by Kiki Yu.