Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Red (1995)


Main image of Red (1995)
35mm, colour, 26 mins
DirectorRosa Fong
Production CompanyBFI Production Board
ProducerJohann Insanally
ScriptRosa Fong
PhotographyOliver Curtis
MusicSimon Lambros

Cast: Jennifer Lim (Xiao Mei); Tom Wu (Johnny); Pik-Sen Lim (Mrs Ng); Benedict Wong (Mark)

Show full cast and credits

In the late 1970s, Xiao-Mei leaves rural China for an arranged marriage in London. Struggling to make sense of her new situation in a strange country, she embarks on a spiritual journey as she discovers family, both old and new.

Show full synopsis

Funded by the BFI Production Board as part of its New Directors scheme, Rosa Fong's short film was and remains one of the very few British films to examine a British-Chinese culture clash on a level other than a comedic one.

It's told from the point of view of Xiao-Mei, a young woman who has agreed to an arranged marriage as an excuse to emigrate to England in search of her parents and older brother Xiao-Hei, who have mysteriously fallen silent. But the marriage creates cultural problems of its own - despite being of Chinese origin, her husband Johnny only speaks English, and can only communicate with her through his mother Mrs Ng (who has an agenda of her own), and through gestures that are usually misunderstood.

Both Xiao-Mei and Johnny cling to particular icons - in Johnny's case, he's constructed a shrine to the secular god Elvis Presley, and Xiao-Mei is obsessively drawn to a disc of snapshots of her family, shot on the 3-D ViewMaster system. Lacking the necessary binocular viewer, she holds them up to the light and imagines images of her childhood coming back to vivid life. Mrs Ng is far less sentimental about such things, telling her new daughter-in-law that no good will ever come from preserving old memories.

Xiao-Mei is ultimately forced to agree, but only after the shock of an encounter with her grown-up brother, during which she discovers that they no longer even have a language in common, as he's forgotten his native one. At the very end of the film, Johnny has a similar shock, as it's announced that Elvis Presley has died. However, by then Xiao-Mei and Johnny have at least started to consummate their relationship, suggesting that whatever hurdles they face in the future (the film also touches on issues of National Front-sponsored racist violence and Chinese Communist propaganda), it will at least be from a position of mutual support.

Michael Brooke

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. The shrine (1:23)
2. The family secret (1:29)
Complete film (25:39)
Lim, Pik-Sen (c. 1944- )
British-Chinese Cinema