Humble Beginning: Early Films of the Yuen Clan


Every brilliant career has its humble beginning. Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan are household names today, superstars who had changed the course of Hong Kong cinema. Yet there was a time when they were merely bit players in movies, sometimes serving as stuntmen or even extras, often faceless or nameless.

Hung and Chan, along with fellow students Yuen Biao, Corey Yuen Kwai, Yuen Wah and Yuen Chau from the Hong Kong-China Opera Institute like , were once members of Qi Xiao Fu (Seven Little Fortunes). It was a troupe of child actors who performed Peking opera and acrobatics, mostly on stage but sometimes in films. They either came from poor families which could not afford to pay tuitions or were too unruly for parents to discipline. The Institute was established by opera veteran Yu Zhanyuan and students were all given names with the word "Yuen". They were the original Yuen Clan, creating action magic long before the other famous Yuen Clan, formed by Yuen Woo-ping and his late father Yuan Xiaotian.

Qi Xiao Fu numbered more than seven. Their rank numbering more than seventy, they were seven because they performed mostly in that supposedly lucky number. They were in turn parts of a hundred-strong student body, different kids selected for different performances according to their skills. They were trained by the stern and demanding Yu in severe disciplines bordering on Dickinsonian. Yet Yu is loved and remembered dearly by his students. His harsh training had prepared the clan so well that some of them went on to global fame and international influence.

2009 marked the 50th anniversary of the Hong Kong-China Opera Institute's formation and alumni are staging a reunion, some of them returning from far corners of the world.

The HKFA is proud to present "Humble Beginning: Early Films of the Yuen Clan" to celebrate the occasion. Titles from the clan's Qi Xiao Fu days as well as films in which clan members performed stunts or served as martial arts director will be screened. The programme also includes a couple of first: the first film in which the former bit player Yuen Lau was billed as Jackie Chan and the first film with which Yuen Lung made his directorial debut as Sammo Hung. Unfortunately, some important titles from or about that early period are unavailable, once again accentuating the urgency in the preservation of Hong Kong cinema's fragile heritage.

The contents of the programme do not represent the views of the presenter.
The presenter reserves the right to change the programme should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary.

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