When was the first time you watched a Chinese movie? For many Chinoys, we fondly remember when our lao shis (teachers) would show us the biggest Chinese flicks in between lesson breaks after major quizzes and during special occasions. We asked students from Chinese-Filipino schools on which movies shown by their lao shis stood out to them the most!
I Not Stupid (2002)
The Singaporean satirical comedy following three young students struggling with their grades (and each other) resonated a lot with students, including Miguel and his classmates. It was a free time in Chinese class in between lessons, and Miguel sympathized with the struggles of protagonists Terry, Kok Pin and Boon Hok. “The movie stood out to me since it made me realize that each and every one of us has potential because we are all good at different things,” said Miguel, looking back at the movie, adding that “It made me realize that we must not judge a child’s success based on how good their grades are.”
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Stephen Chow’s hilarious black comedy action flick about a wannabe gangster who has a change of heart was an instant classic for audiences around the world. Matt’s lao shi showed this movie to him and his classmates during a lesson downtime following a major exam. “It was a comedic take on kung fu. It’s not just action-focused,” Matt observed when reminiscing about the film. “The grandma could also do kung fu despite being a lot older!”
Ip Man (2008)
The martial-arts movie about Bruce Lee’s legendary Wing Chun grandmaster became a blockbuster hit, spawning three sequels, reviving Wing Chun’s popularity in the mainland, and turning series lead Donnie Yen into a superstar. “It was such a good movie, especially watching with a crowd of students,” says Mark, who was shown the film by his lao shi during a Christmas party. Ip Man was one of the first times he’s seen an intense Chinese action film, and the action and cinematography stood out to him the most. “The fights are well-done, where there’s a push and pull. Stunts and wirework are also used to enhance but not be the focus of the fights,” he says. One of the reasons why the movie resonated with him was Yen’s portrayal as the title character, saying, “You really root for this guy, and he’s cool, and you [want] him to get through the day and survive.”
Red Cliff (2008-2009)
Red Cliff is a two-part, four-hour-long movie about the Battle of Red Cliffs, so it’s quite the unexpected choice to be shown to high-schoolers. Anna’s lao shi wanted to make the class more interesting to students, hence she showed them the first part of the John Woo-directed epic to her class. “It was jam-packed with history, war strategy, and, of course, the language,” Anna said, explaining that “It gave me a lot of insight on how people thought and survived during that time period, and how they made the most of what little they had.” It led to her watching the second part in her own initiative, and Red Cliff ended up being not only one of the movies that got her into Chinese cinema, but also a big help in learning Chinese as a non-Chinese student in a Chinoy school. “Exposing yourself to media and real-life application is the best way to learn Chinese, or any other language,” she concluded.
Our Times (2015)
The Vivian Sung-starring romance was a hit in the Taiwan box office, and the same could be said for Abby and her classmates, who were enamored by the will-they-won’t they story. “I enjoyed the comedic parts,” she says, “but it was also a very genuine movie to the point that everyone in my class fell in love with the characters and the movie itself.”
With just a simple film viewing to pass the time during a free session, lao shis have introduced many classics of modern Chinese movies to their students, showing them the beauty and versatility of Chinese cinema.
Answers were edited for clarity. Some names were changed for privacy purposes.