17-23 April 2020

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HIFF Blog

October 29, 2019

HIFF39 KAU KA HŌKŪ NOMINEE: 5 Questions with Johnny Ma, director of TO LIVE TO SING

In China’s present era of rapid modernization, concerns arise for many over the disappearance of lasting traditionalist cultural art forms, in particular the opera. Once considered a central institution for entertainment and even social commentary, there might be a diminishing appreciation for the art, especially among younger Chinese generations. In TO LIVE TO SING, director Johnny Ma explores this process.

He explores it from an everchanging China, from the perspective of a “family” of artists whose very livelihood and passion are being eliminated in the name of progress. We asked him to share his thoughts on the filmmaking process and what’s next for his film and career.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey as a filmmaker thus far. 

I was born in Shanghai, China and immigrated to Canada at the age of ten. I've had two different careers in finance and fashion before venturing into film.

What inspired and motivated you to work on this project?

I was fascinated by the main character Zhao Li who is a real opera performer and her opera troupe. They all played themselves in the film. 

What were some of the greatest challenges of working on this film?

Filming in China... Enough said.

What do you hope audiences will take away from watching your film?

To feel a little bit of the beauty of this art form which is slowly going away.

What are you and your film’s plans beyond HIFF?

Make more movies. 

Read about all the HIFF39 KAU KA HŌKŪ Award nominees. To read more and purchase tickets, go to the TO LIVE TO SING program page.


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