In Hong Kong vernacular, a “sparrow” is a pickpocket. It’s the perfect term for Kei (Simon Yam), a gentleman thief who can easily lift your wallet and disappear without a trace. Kei and his partners make a good living doing this, and it’s a sweet life for Kei, who spends his free time whizzing around the city on his bicycle, snapping photos of Hong Kong daily life with his vintage camera. He is content.
One day, an alluring woman named Chun Lei (Kelly Lin) appears in his viewfinder and utterly captivates him. In fact, the entire team falls for her, as each one of them have their own personal encounter with the mysterious beauty. In time, they realize that Chun Lei is a woman on the run, and she has deliberately lured them in for one reason — to steal something precious from a very dangerous man.
Have the sparrows finally met their match? With an homage to French musical UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG, this film was many years in the making for director Johnnie To, who stopped production midway to start another project. That would be writing on the wall for an artistic disaster, but rather, To turned in one of his most whimsical films. Plus, this film perfectly captures the essence of Simon Yam, a staunch Hong Konger and noted photographer himself, in what is perhaps one of his most fun performances. You can tell he was having lots of fun, a welcome turn from his usual (but just as amazing) oddball or tortured soul roles that have made him famous in an envious filmography of over 170 films.
HIFF is honored to bring back SPARROW and also host Mr. Simon Yam at the Festival. An extended conversation with the famed Hong Kong actor will follow this screening of SPARROW.
-Jason Soeda / Anderson Le