Chen, On-Kei Angie

Critical Biography    Filmography    Reviews    Links

 Chen, On-Kei Angie – Critical Biography  Top

Angie Chen photo
Angie Chen

Born in Shanghai in 1949, Angie Chen went to high school in Taiwan before earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in communications at the University of Iowa. She decided to study filmmaking and enrolled in UCLA’s distinguished MFA program. Her first documentary, Der Besuch (The Visit, 1981), was about her father, and was filmed in Germany before her return to Hong Kong. After graduating, she returned to Hong Kong in the 1980s and directed several feature films followed, namely Maybe It’s Love (1984), My Name Ain’t Suzie (1985), and Chaos By Design (1988), before she became disillusioned with the possibilities of creating original and interesting work within the territory’s commercial industry. She turned to making commercials and publicity shorts before re-emerging as a documentary filmmaker nearly two decades after the release of her last commercial feature, with the intimate portrait This Darling Life (2008) and the acclaimed biographical work, One Tree Three Lives (2012).

One Tree Three Lives (2012)
One Tree Three Lives (2012)

Chen’s early features include a pair of films made for Shaw Brothers in the 1980s. Maybe It’s Love was a sexy, voyeuristic thriller starring Cherie Chung that paid tribute to Hitchcock and Rear Window (1954). Set in the red light district of Wanchai, My Name Ain’t Suzie looked at the life of a bargirl from her initiation into the industry as a young villager from the countryside to her eventual betrayal at the hands of a lover. The film featured strong performances from Pat Ha in the central role and a young Anthony Wong as her lover. The film was laudably serious in its treatment of the controversial subject matter, but it did not lead to further projects that Chen found worthwhile. She directed only one additional feature, Chaos By Design, a relationship film starring Cherie Chung and Cecilia Yip, before withdrawing from feature filmmaking.

This Darling Life (2008)
This Darling Life (2008)

Chen spent years directing commercials before she rekindled her interest in documentary work. This Darling Life (2008) chronicled the filmmaker’s relationship to her pet – a dog that had accompanied Chen for nearly sixteen years before succumbing to illness and death – as well as generally exploring the relationship between pets and their masters. In 2012, Chen directed one of her most well-received works thus far, the acclaimed documentary One Tree Three Lives, a biographical portrait of Hualing Nieh Engle (b. 1925) who along with her husband Paul Engle, founded the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa. An acclaimed writer, Nieh Engle also helped to foster the careers of numerous distinguished writers from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mainland China. Chen’s portrait delves into the rich historical background of Nieh Engle’s life and career, as well as including interviews with many of the writers associated with her work.

Filmography   Top

Feature Films:

Title (English)
Title (Chinese)
Director i’ve Got the Blues (Trailer)  水底行走的人 2017
One Tree Three Lives (Trailer) 三生三世 聶華苓 2012
This Darling Life (Trailer) 愛與狗同行 2008
Riddle of Love 愛情謎語 1987
Producer Growing Up in Anger 青春怒潮 1986
Director My Name Ain’t Suzie 花街時代 1985
Director Maybe It’s Love 窺情 1984
Der Besuch (The Visit) N/A 1981

Reviews   Top

One Tree Three Lives Reviews:

Asia Society:
蘋果日報 (In Chinese):

This Darling Life Reviews:

Hollywood Reporter:
Time Out Hong Kong:

The Pulse, RTHK: This Darling Life featured on RTHK’s “The Pulse”

i’ve Got the Blues Reviews:

SCMP: I’ve Got the Blues film review: Hong Kong artist Yank Wong receives engaging if rambling documentary portrait


China Daily: Smoking out the blues

SCMP Young Post: I’ve Got the Blues is a real triumph of a documentary 

HKIFF: I’ve Got the Blues – Review by Sandeep Ray

Links   Top

Facebook page:
– One Tree Three Lives
– This Darling Life

Hong Kong Cinemagic – ANGIE CHEN ON KEI

Hong Kong Movie Database – Angela Chan On-Kei

IMDB – Angie Chen

Official website:
One Tree Three Lives

This Darling Life

i’ve Got the Blues


Law, Fiona Y.W., Vulnerability in the City: Reading Healing Narratives in East Asian Animal Films, Animal Studies Journal, 4(1), 2015, 57-76.