CAAMFest 2024: The Lyricist Wannabe – Mini-Review & Post-screening Q&A

Earlier this year, I attended a Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office – San Francisco (HKETO-SF) event in Silicon Valley and had met the director Norris Wong. I subsequently got invited to CAAMFest supported Hong Kong films, including The Lyricist Wannabe:

“Set in Hong Kong and Taiwan following the bittersweet journey of aspiring lyricist, Sze, this cinematic mix of light comedy and sobering cynicism reveals the emotional toll of dreaming big in the inhospitable Cantopop scene. As Sze’s determination clashes with the industry’s indifference, she grapples with the fear of failure and the elusive nature of success. With the delightful flourishes of a young girl’s diary, the film captures Sze’s inner world, where every lyric carries the weight of her aspirations.”

Review (non-spoiler)

I found the film entertaining. Be warned, however, that there is a lot of Cantonese-specific humor involving the homonyms specific to the Cantonese language and double entendres. I experienced literal “lost in translation” moments where the audience, which primarily understood Cantonese, was laughing whole heartedly at lines which did not translate into the English subtitles I was reading. I know zero Cantonese and my Mandarin is not great. The film is about writing lyrics specific to Cantonese, and the point of writing music lyrics in Mandarin for a larger potential audience was made I was pleasantly surprised that part of the film takes place in Taipei.

Given my Hong Kong friend and her friend’s reaction to the film, I can whole heartedly recommend the film, especially if you understand Cantonese. Having not been to Hong Kong since 1994 or 1995, I enjoyed seeing Hong Kong as part of the character of the film.

Post-screening Q&A

In the Q&A, the filmmakers discussed the semi-autobiographical nature of the film, as well as the role of lyricists in the Cantonese music industry, particularly using the 0243 method for writing songs. The discussion touches on the challenges faced by dreamers in pursuing their passions, with feedback indicating the film’s encouragement resonating with audiences.

They also mention the tight budget (the film was self-funded) and cameos by industry celebrity friends. They invited audiences to support the film’s release in Canada sometime in the near future and to express interest for distribution in the US. Given a large migration of Hong Kong Chinese before the transition to Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China back in 1997, it’s no surprise that there would be an audience in Canada. According to Wikipedia, the film was released internationally on March 15th & 22, 2024 in the United Kingdom and Taiwan, respectively.

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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