Floating Life + Q&A MA 15+

A young Asian woman dressed in a suit jacket pictured from the waist up in front of a green field and hills with trees in the background
03 March
Arc Cinema
$12 / $10
Dir: Clara Law, MA 15+, Australia, 1996, 96mins, DCP,

The Chans, a Chinese family in Hong Kong, migrate to the sunny yet stark Australian suburbs to join their adult daughter Bing (Annie Yip). With 7 years of living in Australia already under her belt, Bing is caught between the customs of her ageing parents and younger siblings, and the new, isolated life she has built for herself.

Deftly navigating humour and tenderness, and spanning multiple continents, vignettes and decades, Floating Life follows the Chans as they push and pull at each other while adapting to their new lives.

Curator’s note:

Floating Life boasts many 'firsts': Australia's first submission in the Best Foreign Language (now International) Film category at the Academy Awards; the first example of Asian Australian cinema; and the first film Law made in Australia after finding success in the Hong Kong film industry.

Law and partner/co-writer Eddie L.C Fong drew from their own migratory experiences when developing the script, blending farcical moments of culture shock with poignant scenes of intergenerational tension. Lensed by cinematographer Dion Beebe, who expertly captures the harsh suburban sun, and featuring heartfelt performances, Floating Life has inspired a wave of Asian Australian filmmakers since its release.

Floating Life won the Silver Leopard award at the 1996 Locarno Film Festival and picked up Best Director and Best Original Screenplay nominations at the Australian Film Institute Awards. In 2019, the film's cultural significance was recognised when the film was digitally restored as part of NFSA Restores.

Join us in the cinema for this special screening followed by a Q&A with director Clara Law and writer Eddie L.C Fong.


Director’s statement:

Floating Life describes most aptly for me the world of an immigrant. An immigrant is cut off from history, both from one’s personal history and the nation’s history. He/She has to learn to live ‘floatingly’. What does existence mean away from one’s country, the non-existence of an existence when one is cut off from one’s roots?

Yet aren’t we all transient beings passing through this place called earth? We are mortals that will pass away. We always try to hold hard onto a little space and call it our own. Aren’t we not all immigrants in this world? Where are our roots? At the end of the 20th century, we still try to differentiate by our colours, by our gods, by where we come from, the East or the West. The paradox.

Ancient Chinese philosophy teaches that there is a cosmic order to the universe. This order extends from heaven to earth, from country to man, from father to son… And so forth. I believe in this. This belief has given me strength and faith when I was making this film.

 - Clara Law


See also:

NFSA Restores Floating Life – Exploring the Asian Migrant Experience by Elena Guest, NFSA, 2021
Floating Life: The Heaviness of Moving by Stephen Teo, Senses of Cinema, 2001

Film notes courtesy of ACMI.

This title is held in the NFSA collection.



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