Film-making duo Mabel Cheung Yuen-ting (BA 1973) and Alex Law Kai-yui (BA 1976) may have graduated at different times from the Faculty of Arts, but they both brought a desire to test the boundaries.
Neither of them bothered to attend many classes and Alex spent his entire second year in Japan, which was just about possible back then because there were no exams in that year.
“I actually enrolled in a Japanese university, International Christian University, for one semester. Then I got tired of school because I couldn’t understand what they were talking about, so I just travelled all over Japan,” he says, laughing.
Mabel had more serious distractions as she had to work part-time to provide money for her family. But she also kept a busy schedule as sports captain of Lady Ho Tung Hall and social butterfly. There were, for example, 10-15 Christmas balls each year as faculties, halls and associations each held their own events and she attended many of them.
“You cannot repeat your gowns,” she says, “and back then we didn’t have money to buy gowns. So we went to the tailor and we had to design our gowns, buy the fabric, have them made. It was a really big thing. You can see how busy I was – I didn’t have time to go to classes!”
Many students were politically active at the time including Alex who, among other things, helped to shower 5,000 protest leaflets on Queen Elizabeth’s limousine when she visited HKU in 1975. Mabel only went to one demonstration, at the Lily Pond, because singer Sam Hui was making an appearance and a free lunch was offered. (Alex compares them to the unlikely lovers of the 1973 Hollywood film, “The Way We Were.”)
Apart from the high times, though, both graduates have more serious memories of University life. Mabel was supported by Mary Visick when she got accepted to Lady Ho Tung Hall but could not afford the costs.
“She said, ‘You have a job (youth), the future, everything, but you don’t have money. I don’t have anything but I have money.’ She helped me to get all kinds of grants and loans and helped me personally,” she says.
Alex says he learned as much from tutors and friends over coffee or just strolling together along the Main Building’s driveway as he did inside the classroom.
He also remembers Loke Yew Hall as the start and finish to his studies – where he was bused to find out his matriculation results, and where, at his final exam, he met one of his professors for the first time. “He said, ‘oh, you are the Alex Law I have never seen’,” he says.
Mabel and Alex have returned to HKU in recent years as University Artists to encourage young people in the arts. They have few regrets although Mabel admits to one.
“It was final exams and I was sitting in my room studying at five or six o’clock in the evening. I was never usually there at that time and I saw a beautiful sunset. It was the first time I realized that I could see the sunset from my room. I had missed all these sunsets and it was already too late because there was only one month to go. It was one time I thought maybe I shouldn’t have played so much.”
Ms Mabel Cheung is an award-winning director. She graduated from the University of Hong Kong in 1973, majoring in English Literature and Psychology. She holds an Advanced Diploma in Drama and Visual Arts from Bristol University, UK, and an MFA Degree in Film Production from the New York University Graduate Film School.
Mr Alex Law is an award-winning producer, script writer and director. He graduated from the University of Hong Kong in 1976, majoring in English and Chinese Literature. He then studied at the New York University Graduate Film School and received an MFA Degree in Film Production there.
Their latest work is the motion picture “Echoes of the Rainbow,” winner of the Crystal Bear award at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival, Generation Section, as well as four Hong Kong film awards.
(Photo by So Hing Keung)