Yonfan was born in Hankou, China in 1947. He grew up in Taiwan and studied in Hong Kong starting at age 16, contributing to the Chinese Student Weekly while still in school. Upon graduation from St. Paul Co-educational College, Yonfan travelled to the United States and Europe to study film and photography. He returned to Hong Kong in 1973 and quickly made a name for himself as a photographer, noted for fashion work and celebrity portraits. He founded Far Sun Films, bringing a number of acclaimed European art films to Hong Kong, including the French films Les parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and Le grand Meaulnes.
Yonfan made his directorial debut in 1984 with A Certain Romance, establishing a personal style of photographic beauty and sentimental romanticism. The film was followed by The Story of Rose (1985), Immortal Story (1986) and Last Romance (1988). In 1993, Yonfan teamed up with Sylvia Chang and Samson Chiu to co-direct the omnibus film The New Age of Living, each directing one segment of the comedy drama.
Yonfan then made the provocative Bugis Street (1995), about transgendered prostitutes in Singapore, which attracted international attention and was shown at the Another Wave: Global Queer Cinema program in 2006 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Bishonen (1998) was awarded Best Picture at the 13th Milan and Bologna International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. It also launched the careers of its leads, Daniel Wu and Stephen Fung, as members of a new generation of Hong Kong actors. In 2001, Yonfan’s Peony Pavilion entered the 23rd Moscow International Film Festival where the film’s leading actress Rie Miyazawa won the Best Actress award. The film also won Yonfan the FIPRESCI Award and was named one of the top 10 best international films by Time magazine.
Breaking the Willow, Yonfan’s 2003 documentary on the Chinese kunqu opera, was shown at Venice Film Festival. His erotica Colour Blossom was screened at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2005.
To honour Yonfan’s contribution to film art, the French government awarded the director Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. In 2008, he founded Peony 5 Film and directed Prince of Tears in Taiwan, bringing the director back to his childhood land.
|Year||Chinese name||English name||Directors|
||Prince of Tears|
||Breaking the Willow|
||In Between||CHANG Ai Chia Sylvia CHIU Liang Ching Samson|
||Promising Miss Bowie|
||The Story of Rose|
||A Certain Romance|