Holding up banners and flags, two primary students were shouting ‘Cats are innocent! Save the cats!’ outside a football field. No one responded or followed their footsteps. They were alone on the path to pursue their vision of ‘kindness’. This is the last scene of Cat in a Glass, a short film Jack Ng Wai-lun directed back in 2002, at the beginning of his career. Twenty years later, Director Ng specified The Salvation Army as the beneficiary of a fundraising campaign in a radio programme – it seems that Ng’s heart has always been with those two primary students, who have been persistent in shouting their slogan to fight for justice and kindness.
Director Ng has now been in the industry for 23 years. While he began his career as a screenwriter, A Guilty Conscience marks his directorial debut in movie this year. The theme of the legal dramedy is ‘return to your original aspiration’. In the film, the negligence of the protagonist resulted in his innocent client being put into prison. Burdened with guilt, the protagonist is then motivated to return to his original conviction of fighting for justice as a lawyer. Through this movie, it seems that the director is asking himself: do you still remember why you started making films?
Director Ng still remembers vividly his vision behind Cat in a Glass. It was a story about a group of primary students, having read a false report on the internet about people raising cats in glass bottles, decided to step up and do these cats justice. However, many children in the group soon gave up on the quest one by one. Two members were all that was left of the loud-and-proud team.
‘This story actually stemmed from my experience in secondary school. At the time, our school hosted a walkathon, which then turned out to be a real-life rendition of the song Ten Youngsters Fighting Fires. My group of friends made an appointment to go to the walkathon together, and then gradually people started backing out. The event made an impression on me… I think this is what happens when you do good. A lot of people only talk the talk but do not walk the walk. This was the message I wanted to convey. And of course, what I really want to say is, even if there are very few people left, we should never give up.’
As Long As You Are Genuine
Everyone might have their own interpretation of ‘kindness’. But Director Ng believes that ‘kindness’ is never a complicated matter. ‘Being kind is simply helping people genuinely,’ he explained. How we help others does not matter. Recently, in a fundraising campaign of a radio programme, Director Ng designated The Salvation Army as its beneficiary, hoping to encourage in-kind donations.
‘Hong Kongers enjoy shopping. We sometimes buy things and then we no longer need them. If the items are still quite new, it would be a waste to just throw them away,’ Ng said. He believes donating clothing or homeware is more practical because these supplies can be donated to individuals or families in need.
‘Sometimes helping others is easy. You could greet your elderly neighbour who lives alone and ask about his well-being. This is also considered a kind of assistance. Loan him an extra blanket if you have one. It’s as simple as that.’
Put Kindness Into Action
Director Ng believes that all of us are kind at heart but might not know how to put it into action. ‘Hong Kongers are shy. Even if they are willing to provide assistance, they might not know how. But when they see someone stepping out, they would often respond very proactively.’
Giving-and-receiving is more complicated than a simple cause-and-effect. ‘I know many Hong Kongers are willing to give others a helping hand without asking for anything in return. If someone supported you in overcoming your challenges, you can return the favour by doing so for others, not just for the individual that supported you originally.’
Receiving help from others could be the beginning of serving others in the future. Do not look down on yourself – you might be in need at this moment, but you could be of great assistance to others in the near future. With this conviction, children’s rights and their education are issues that are very dear to Director Ng. ‘When children grow up in a good environment with a healthy attitude, they will naturally be willing to help others as adults. This is a good snowball effect’, he shared. It seems that, though very few noticed, there are now people following the two primary students fighting to be kind to others.
Jack Ng Wai-lun is a Hong Kong director and screenwriter, who graduated from HKAPA with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television in 2000 with a concentration in Directing. At the beginning of his career, Ng mainly wrote scripts for action movies. In 2010, Ng’s script of The Stool Pigeon was nominated as Best Screenplay. In 2021, Ng tried his hand at another genre – writing Anita, a biographical movie, with Longman Leung. In 2023, Ng made his directorial debut with A Guilty Conscience, which is now the highest-grossing Hong Kong film in the history of Hong Kong movies