One of the most important figures of Hong Kong cinema, Ann Hui was born in Manchuria in 1947 and moved to Hong Kong when she was five years old. She studied English language and literature and comparative literary studies until 1972, then spent two years at the London Film School. Upon returning to Hong Kong, Hui became an assistant to the veteran director King Hu and then joined TVB, where she directed serials and documentaries on 16 mm. In 1977, she joined the ICAC (Independent Commission for Anti-Corruption) and made seven TV episodes for its drama series, two of which were banned from airing because of the sensitive subject matter. She then joined the government TV network RTHK in 1978 and made three featurettes for the series Below the Lion Rock, of which the best known is Boy From Vietnam, which subsequently became the first part of her "Vietnam trilogy." The other two films were Huyue de Gushi (The Story of Wu Viet) (1981), which was screened at the Director's Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival, and Tuo Pen Hu Hai (The Boat People) (1982), an Official Selection at Cannes and Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
Hui left television and made her first feature film, Feng Jie (The Secret), in 1979, a thriller based on a real-life murder case and starring famous Hong Kong actress Sylvia Chang. Zhuang Dao Zheng (The Spooky Bunch, 1980) was her venture into a popular genre in Chinese literature and film, the ghost story. Quing Cheng Zhi Lian (Love in a Fallen City, 1984) was an adaptation of a well-known Shanghai novelette by Zhang Ailing. Hui used the story -- set in the days before Hong Kong's fall to the Japanese in 1941 -- to comment on the anxiety felt by Hong Kong residences about the Chinese takeover of 1997. Her projects became more ambitious, with the two-part Qing dynasty epic, martial-arts film Shujian Enchoulou (The Romance of Book and Sword/Princess Fragrance) (1987). Ann Hui's films have always revealed a strong sense of history and almost without exception featured strong female characters. The question of exile and the psychological effects of the condition of exile on the individual are her recurring themes. Ke Tu Chin Hen (Song of the Exile) (1990), which is somewhat autobiographical, won the Best Film prize both at the Asian Pacific Film Festival and Rimini Film Festival. Hui executive produced Yim Ho's The Day the Sun Turned Cold (1994), Best Film at the Tokyo International Film Festival, and was an associate producer of Opium War (1997). Qian Yan Wan Yu (Ordinary Heroes) competed at the 49th International Berlin Film Festival in 1999.