although they are mostly remembered for their TV skits, the legendary Singaporean comedians Wang Sha & Ye Feng starred in over 40 Hong Kong films. reviewing their transnational body of work for the literary quarterly Mekong Review was a chance to experience the sheer diversity of their legacies that go beyond comedy, the so harsh-it’s-funny socioeconomic realities of 1970s HK, which resonate today globally, and the melodious fangyan of Cantonese and Teochew, still silenced here by the Speak Mandarin Campaign.
out of the 26 films in Asian Film Archive’s retrospective, which continues until 7 April and includes an exhibition and talks, here are a few that stood out: the Crazy Bumpkins series—especially Return of the Crazy Bumpkins (1975) for its moving, almost transcendent ending, and Crazy Bumpkins in Singapore (1976) for its being a rose-tinted time capsule of the expunged, like the National Theatre and Satay Club; another John Lo Mar–directed film The Happy Trio (1975), perhaps the duo’s most well-rounded standalone film; and the historical gem of Farewell to a Warrior (1976), an evocative Teochew opera by the renowned Chor Yuen.
in my writing and research, i was aided by Su Zhangkai’s lovely book on Wang Sha & Ye Feng, 《弟喂，做人阿甲阿甲就好》 (2019). thanks also to Kirsten Han for her editing, the Mekong Review team, Yeo Min Hui, Toh Hun Ping, and the Asian Film Archive. written as part of the ArtsEquator Fellowship, my review is behind a paywall, so do consider subscribing to Mekong Review, or encourage your institution to do so. single issues are also available online and at stores. glad to be in print (!) in an issue with writers i respect, like Philip Holden, Liew Kai Khiun, and profiled subject bani haykal.