As part of the semi-annual Asian Pop-Up Cinema Film Festival, which ran from September 10 through November 6, The First Girl I Loved had its Midwest premiere.
The film, which has received strong positive word of mouth in its originating Hong Kong, tells the story of two Catholic high school girls, Nam and Yuet, who fall in and out of love while navigating the euphoria and crashes of first romance, obstacles from family and school, and the complications from an uneven attraction and commitment to one another. he film was co-directed by Candy Ng and Yeung Chiu-Ho and stars Tam Sin-yin and Yueng Sz-wing in the leads.
The First Girl I love screened on the evening of Nov. 5 at the AMC New City 14 Theater, 1500 N. Clybourne Ave.
T Chiu-Ho was present after the screening and participated in a discussion and Q and A session with Columbia College Professor of Media Ron Falzone and members of the audience.
The film, produced on a small budget, captures the beauty of the act of two young people falling in love, gently veering from comedy to drama with nuanced imagery which looks like this is an art film even while keeping the intimacy front and center.
Water is ever-present (swimming pools, puddles, a fully loaded washing machine, and an exhilarating kiss in the rain) and a skillful shift in perspective gives the story a surprising gravity. Without giving away any spoilers, the film ends and reaches its climax at a wedding.
After the screening, Falzone interviewed Chiu-hoi about the creation of the film and the reaction from audiences in Hong Kong. Chiu-hoi mentioned he was an exchange student at the University of Chicago while in college and that though he is well known as an actor, his co-direction on the film was a new challenge. He said, "When we started writing the script, we started it as boy and girl, but Candy [Ng] and I had a friend who said it was her story. So boy loves girl became girls and girls and then boys and boys...and back to girl loves girl. We found that as soon as you see something different and unusual. it becomes universal."
Professor Falzone commented on the ending and Chiu-hoi cracked a smile. He said, "At the wedding when I heard people in the audience making tissue sounds, they got all tearful and started crying...when I heard that I said, 'yes.''"
The Asian Pop-Up Cinema Festival is the creation of Sophie Wong Boccio, an international film and curator and head of Sophia's Choice, a Chicago based 501 C (3) not-for-profit cultural organization incorporated in 2015. The organization provides a platform for specially curated Asian films in their original languages with English subtitles.
Sponsors of the festival included The Korean Foundation, Facets Multimedia and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.