Review: ‘My Mother is a Belly Dancer’

"My Mother Is a Belly Dancer" is a surprisingly downbeat study of a bunch of women in a public-housing estate who find liberation from their dreary lives by taking belly dancing classes. Film will travel less than arty entry "Rain Dogs" and crowdpleasing caper-comedy "Crazy Stone." Middle-aged Asian auds may respond.

Sixth and final pic out of the fest gate in Hong Kong-based Focus Films’ DV series First Cuts, “My Mother Is a Belly Dancer” is a surprisingly downbeat study of a bunch of women in a public-housing estate who find liberation from their dreary lives by taking belly dancing classes. Mining the same vein of personal liberation as comedies like “The Full Monty” and “Calendar Girls” yet working-class Cantonese to its fingertips, film will travel less than arty entry “Rain Dogs” and crowdpleasing caper-comedy “Crazy Stone.” Middle-aged Asian auds may respond.

Applying for a traditional Chinese dance class in a public services leisure program, some “aunties” find the course has been changed to belly dancing. Most say they won’t partake of such a “sluttish” activity — apart from a band of rebels including Mrs. Wong (Kristal Tin), a laid-off garbage collector who still pretends to clock in, shy friend Mrs. Chan (Amy Chum) and Mrs. Lee (Sydney). Belly-dancing sequences are rather haphazardly inserted, but perfs are colorful and contain an underlying warmth. However, script lacks a clear dramatic structure to sustain interest beyond patches. DV-to-35mm transfer is excellent.

My Mother is a Belly Dancer

Hong Kong

Production

A Focus Films release and presentation of a Focus Films, October Pictures production. (International sales: Focus, Hong Kong.) Produced by Daniel Yu, Wong Ching-po. Executive producer, Andy Lau. Directed by Lee Kung-lok. Screenplay, Erica Lee; story, Susan Chan.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Jason Kwan; editors, Billy Cheung, Daniel Yu; music, Paul Wong. Revewed at Pusan Film Festival (A Window on Asian Cinema), Oct. 13, 2006. (Also in Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival.) Original Cantonese title: Sinai m yi chou. Running time: 104 MIN.

With

Amy Chum, Sydney, Kristal Tin, Monie Tung, Kent Tong, Cheung Wing-hong, Lam Ka-tung, Lam Tze-chung, Andy Lau. (Cantonese dialogue)
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