Hong Kong Women Filmmakers

Mak, Yan-yan Gorretti

Critical Biography    Filmography    Reviews  Bibliography

 Mak, Yan-yan Gorretti – Critical Biography  Top

Mak Yan Yan

Goretti Mak

Mak Yan-yan studied filmmaking at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA), entering the industry after she graduated in 1993. She worked behind-the-scenes in various capacities over the course of the decade, accumulating experience in order to make her feature film debut in 2001 with GeGe (Brother, 2001), co-winner of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) award at the 2001 Hong Kong International Film Festival. Shot on digital video, the low-budget indie production followed the story of a young man from Hong Kong who travels in search of his missing brother to a remote region in the northwest Chinese province of Qinghai. The film played at the Venice Film Festival’s Critics Week section, where it was warmly received. It was also selected for inclusion in the 2002 Rotterdam Film Festival.

While GeGe received some critical acclaim, it took nearly three years before Mak was able to make her second feature as a writer-director. The result was Butterfly (2004), a lesbian drama starring Josie Ho as a married schoolteacher whose infatuation with a young woman awakens memories of a truncated lesbian romance from her teenage years. The film cuts between present-day Hong Kong and the city in 1989, notably making multiple allusions to the June 4th incident in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. The film screened once again at the Venice Film Festival, as part of Critics Week, where it received some positive reviews. Mainland singer Tian Yuan won the Best New Artist award at the 2005 Hong Kong Film Awards for her role as the carefree young woman who captivates Josie Ho’s protagonist. Mak would team up with Tian again for the short film August Story (2006), a literary adaptation about a young woman’s coming-of-age and how she deals with both heterosexual and lesbian desire.

Aside from her feature film work, Mak has regularly collaborated with the Cantopop singer Denise Ho (HOCC), for whom she has directed a series of music videos. In 2008, they collaborated on a documentary project entitled The Decameron (2008), also known under the title of Ho’s accompanying album Ten Days in the Madhouse, in which Ho and Yan visited patients at a mental hospital, exploring the meaning of madness and psychiatric conditions within the context of present-day Hong Kong. In addition to her regular collaborations with Ho, Mak has also worked with the Cantopop bands GrassHopper and SoftHard. Her behind-the-scenes documentary about the collaborative concert held by the two bands in 2012 was entitled The Great War (2012).

Mak’s most recent feature has been the result of a commission from a charitable organization: the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals. Co-directed by Mak and Clement Cheng (Gallants), Merry-Go-Round (2010) pairs veteran performers (Teddy Robin, Nora Miao) with young newcomers (Ella Koon, Lawrence Chou) in a story that relates in part the charitable work done by the Tung Wah Group. With a flashback structure that divides its narrative between present-day and 1950s Hong Kong, the film attracted generally positive reviews when it played at the 2011 Rotterdam Film Festival.

Filmography   Top

Feature Films:

Title (English)
Title (Chinese)
Director The Great War 大戰 2013
Co-directed with Clement Cheng, Si-Kit Clement
Merry-Go-Round (Trailer) 東風破 2010
Co-directed with Denise Ho The Decameron (Trailer) 十日談 2008
Producer Breeze of July (Trailer) 七月好風 2007
Butterfly (Trailer) 蝴蝶 2004
Assistant director Fall For You 囍歡您 2001
Production manager Leaving in Sorrow 憂憂愁愁的走了 2001
GeGe (Brother) 哥哥 2001
Production manager Love Will Tear Us Apart 天上人間 1999


Title (English)
Title (Chinese)
Director Slight @ Love More HK (Full movie) Slight @ 你還可愛麼? 2011
Director 2 Cartons of Alphabet H 2006
Producer August Story 八月的故事 2005
Director The Body of Book 2003
Director 了了 1998
Director 100%G 1995

Reviews   Top

Merry-Go-Round (2010) Reviews:

Asia Movie Web:
Film Business Asia:
Love HK Film:


Breeze of July (2007) Reveiews:

Love HK Film:
So Good Reviews:

Butterfly (2004) Reviews:

Love HK Film:

Fall for You (2001) Reviews:

Love HK Film:

GeGe (2001) Reviews:


Bibliography   Top

  1. Cheung, Esther M. K. “Authenticity and Independence: Fruit Chan and Independent Filmmaking.” Cheung, Esther M. K. Fruit Chan’s Made in Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2008. 21-38.
  2. Cheung, Esther M. K., Gina Marchetti and See-Kam Tan. “Hong Kong Screenscapes: An Introduction.” Hong Kong Screenscapes: From the New Wave to the Digital Frontier. Ed. Esther M. K. Cheung, Gina Marchetti and See-Kam Tan. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011. 1-14.
  3. Leung, Helen Hok-sze. “Between Girls.” Leung, Helen Hok-sze. Undercurrents: Queer Culture and Postcolonial Hong Kong. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008. 40-64.
  4. Martin, Fran. “Critical Presentism: New Chinese Lesbian Cinema.” Martin, Fran. Backward Glances: Contemporary Chinese Cultures and the Female Homoerotic Imaginary. Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2010. 147-149.
  5. Suda, Kimiko. “Ann Hui’s All about Love: New Perspectives on Gender, Kinship and Sexualities in Hong Kong.” Chinese Identities on Screen. Ed. Klaus Mühlhahn and Clemens von Haselberg. Zurich: Lit Verlag, 2012. 100-110.
  6. Wang, Lingzhen. “Chinese Women’s Cinema.” A Companion to Chinese Cinema. Ed. Yingjin Zhang. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. 318-345.
  7. Wong, Ken. Routledge International Encyclopedia of Queer Culture. Ed. David A. Gerstner. London: Routledge, 2006. 208-282.