By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday April 20, 2012 - 04:25:00 PM

Sixty-five year old Ann Hui On-Wah is a film director, producer and screenwriter, one of the most critically acclaimed of the Hong Kong New Wave. Born to a Japanese mother and Chinese father, she moved to Macao, then to Hong Kong when she was five years old. After studying film-making at the London International Film School, Hui returned to Hong Kong in 1975. She joined TVB, a major Hong Kong TV network, as a producer of serials and documentaries.  

“In old age the servant becomes the served” is the apt title of the New York Times review of Hui’s latest film. A Simple Life, in Cantonese with English subtitles, is currently playing in San Francisco and Cupertino. Note: The title is A Simple Life – not The Simple Life, of which there are numerous—mostly how-to-have’s.  

Another reviewer perceived A Simple Life to be about the challenges and rewards of looking after the sick and aging. At a Norwegian film festival, it elicited the following response, with which I agree. A Simple Life is “… a movie which primarily focuses on every little moment of an elderly woman, but it is never a dull moment as the first impression might seem. It's a movie which really drives you to care for the characters in a natural way as opposed to many films where they "force" you with "natural" gimmicks. No, this movie broke most typical western styles, but at the same time made it entertaining and thrilling. It's a movie where there're no explosions, no foresight drama or no extreme twists... it's truly, a simple life, which showed me how simple it can be to be humble, and care for those we love.” 

Hui drew her story from real life events of producer Roger Lee and his servant. It is about the relationship of the young master of a large family, Roger Leung (Andy Lau), and Ah Tao - Sister Peach (Deanie Ip), the family servant (an amah) who raised him. In the film’s first stage, she has been with the family for sixty years. Now Roger is the last of his family in Hong Kong — the others have moved to San Francisco — and she works for him, sharing his apartment. A Simple Life. 

Now director Hui shifts their arrangement. Ah Tao has a stroke and announces her retirement. Further more, she wants to live in an “old people’s home.” (Not the “assisted living” of contemporary Western nomenclature and some reviewers.) In documentary-like scenes, Roger finds an old people’s home, and we learn about this Hong Kong growth industry, the price of a single room versus a shared one, and the various charges for an escort outside the home.  

With Ah Tao’s move, the film focus shifts again-- to the old people’s home. Roger visits her regularly. He takes her to restaurants and looks out for her as she has always done for him. A Simple Life has been criticized as too long (almost two hours). Not so. Hui conveys the shifts and stages of a such a relationship without encapsulating that would downgrade the significance of age.  

There are differences between affection and love.  

Would that some thoughtful, well-to-do person who cares about the aging and the aged, would sponsor an all-day, door-to-door outing, with lunch, to enable senior center participants and subsidized housing renters to enjoy A Simple Life. Or an organization. Yeah, and Medicare might fund hearing aids! 



My Medicare Matters is a free website that offers people with Medicare and their family members information about joining Medicare and the services they can receive. The site is sponsored by the National Council on Aging, with support from AstraZeneca. It provides free information when getting Medicare initially, choosing a prescription drug plan, and more. Note: AstraZeneca is a British multinational pharmaceutical and biologics company headquartered in London, UK, with a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and secondary listings on the New York Stock Exchange.  


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Be sure to confirm. Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events and deadlines that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred.  

Fridays, through July 13. 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Conversiamo in Italiano. Learn Italian with instructor Donatella Zepplin. 510-747-7510. 


Saturday, April 21. 11 A.M. – 4 P.M. Free admission. CAL DAY Concerts. Orchestra: winers of the annual concerto competition perform: Milhaud: Cinéma-Fantaisie, Joe Neeman, violin. Chausson: Poème, Casey Nosiglia, violin Saint-Saëns: Violin Concerto No. 3, Wooho Park, violin. Liszt: Totentanz, Lisa Wu, piano. BAROQUE ENSEMBLE: Corelli & Bach. CHAMBER CHORUS: excerpts from their recent concert "La Chanson". String quartets; Gamelan; African Drumming & Dance; Gospel Chorus. Hertz Hall. 510-642-4864. 

Saturday April 21. 1-5 P.M. Oakland Public Library Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave.. California Writers' Club, a workshop open to all writers. Contact: Anne Fox 510-420-8775. 

Tuesday, April 24. 1-2:30 P.M. James Felton, Ph.D., associate director, UCD Cancer Center, presents “Why We Get Cancer.” Dr. Felton will explore cell division and tumor growth; the affects of diet and environmental exposure; and the role of genetics on developing cancer. This Cal State East Bay Scholar-Olli program is sponsored by the MSCAB. Mastick Senior Center office, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call 510-747-7506. 

Tuesday, April 24. 3-4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library Central, 2090 Kittredge. Tea and Cookies at the Library. A free monthly book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100. See also May 22. 

Wednesday, April 25. 12:15-1 P.M. UC,B Music Dept. Gamelan Music of Java and Bali performed by classes directed by Midiyanto and I Dewa Putu Berata with Ben Brinner and Lisa Gold. Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864.  

Wednesday, April 25. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group: William Butler Yeats’ poem, Lapis Luzuli. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Contact: Ronnie Davis 510-526-3720 x16. 

Wednesdays, April 25 – May 16. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Fear of falling? Focus on balance in new Feldenkrais awareness through movement class series. $20. for the series. Albany Senior Center, 1247 Marin Ave. Rosie Rosenthal, instructor. 510-525-3867.  

Wednesday, April 25. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Gray Panthers. Monthly meeting at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 510-981-5190, 548-9696, 486-8010. 

Wednesday, May 2. 12:15-1 P.M. UC,B Music Dept.: Renaissance Music, A Cappella.  

Perfect Fifth, Mark Sumner, director, is an a cappella choir in UC Choral Ensembles specializing in medieval and Renaissance music—sacred and secular, as well as contemporary art music. Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, May 2. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Also June 6, July 11, August 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.

Wednesday, May 2. 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM Poetry Writing Workshop with Christina Hutchins, Albany poet and author of The Stranger Dissolves, facilitates this writing workshop. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. No registration required. Drop in and work on your poetry with a group of supportive writers. Contact: Dan Hess, 510- 526-3720 x17. Also June 6, August 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3 and Nov. 7.  

Thursday, May 3. 9 A.M. – 1 P.M. 6th Annual Senior Health and Wellness Resource Fair. Kenneth C. Aitken Senior and Community Center, 17800 Redwood Road, Castro Valley. 510-881-6738.  

Thursday, May 3. 1:30 P.M. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Cherisse Baptiste from non-profit ECHO Housing will introduce Alameda County Library system audiences to the workings of the reverse mortgage, which is a loan against accumulated home equity that provides cash advances to certain homeowners at least 62 years of age. This free program is for older adults. 510-526-3720. For dates of this presentation at libraries throughout the system, call Patricia Ruscher, Older Adult Services, 510-745-1491 

Saturday, May 5. 1 P.M. Ribbon cutting ceremony. Music, Refreshments. Claremont Library Branch Library Reopening. 2940 Benvenue Ave. Library services resume at 2 P.M. Free. 510-981-6100. 

Monday, May 7. 6:30 P.M. Castoffs knitting group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. An evening of knitting, show and tell, and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Tuesday, May 8. 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Second Tuesdays Poetry Night: Derek Mong & Annie O. Fisher. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Stanford University poet, Derek Mong, reads. He is joined by translator, Annie O. Fisher. Both writers have translated works by the Russian poet, Maxim Amelin. Featured poets followed by open mic. Contact: Dan Hess. 510- 526-3720 x17 

Wednesday, May 9. 12:00 noon - 1:00 PM One-on-One Computer Tutoring: Reservation Required. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Sign up at Reference Desk. 510-526-3720. Also May 23. 

Thursday, May 10. 7-8:45 P.M. Cafe Literario at West Berkeley Public Library, 1125 University Ave. Facilitated Spanish language book discussion. May title: La Casa de Dostoievsky by Jorge Edwards. Free. 510-981-6270. 

Thursday, May 10. Annual Spring Luncheon & Fashion Show. The Annual Thrift Shop Fashion and Spring Luncheon, Good Ship Lollipop. Tickets went on sale Friday, April 13, at 8:30 A.M. in the Mastick Senior Center Office, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Cost of the luncheon is $16 per person. This event guarantees good food, fashion, and fun! All proceeds support Mastick Senior Center. 510-747-7510.  

Friday, May 11. 8:30 A.M. – 2:30 P.M. The African American Caregiving and Wellness Forum V: The End of Alzheimer’s Starts With Me. West Oakland senior Center, 1724 Adeline Street. Registration required by April 27. 1-800-272-3900.  

Sunday, May 13. 12-4:30 P.M., 1:30 - 2:45 P.M. Hertz Concert Hall. Concert and Commencement Ceremony. Sponsor: Department of Music. Concert featuring award winners in the performing arts. Open to all audiences. Event Contact:, 510-642-4864. 

Monday, May 14. 12:30 - 1:30 PM. Albany YMCA/Albany Library Brown Bag Lunch Speaker's Forum: SFMOMA's Peter Samis, associate curator of interpretation, discusses the topic: EXPERIENCING THE WORLD OF MODERN ART THROUGH NEW TECHNOLOGIES. The forum is co-sponsored by the Albany YMCA and the Albany Library, 1237 Marin Av. Contact: Ronnie Davis(510) 526-3720 x16 

Monday, May 14. 7:00 P.M. Identity Theft Program. Barbara Jue, a Legal Shield associate, will offer information and advice on how to prevent identity theft and how to cope should it happen. She will also talk about children and computer use and cyber bullying. Q&A follows. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, May 15. 6 – 8 P.M. Free Legal Workshop: Alternatives to Foreclosure. Steven Mehlman, a local attorney, will offer an informational session to explain the pros and cons of each financial decision to help you make the right choice for your 

situation. Sponsored by the Contra Costa County Bar Association. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. 510-526-7512. 

Wednesday, May 16. 7-8 P.M. Evening Book Group. Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Moderated by Rosalie Gonzales. 510-526-3720.  

Monday May 21. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: Color of the Sea by John Hamamura. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. Free. 61 Arlington Av. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, May 22. 3 – 4 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Tea and Cookies at the Library. A free monthly book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, May 23. 1:30 - 2:30 PM Great Books Discussion Group: Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. Group meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Contact: Ronnie Davis(510) 526-3720 x16 

Sunday, May 27. 130-4:30 P.M. Book Into Film: Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Read the book at home. Watch the movie together. Discuss the book, film and adaptation as a group. Registration required- call 510-981-6236 to sign up. 

Wednesday, May 30. 12 Noon-1 P.M. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Public Library.  

2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. 510-981-6100. 

Monday, June 4. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. An evening of knitting, show and tell, and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday, June 18. 7 P.M. Art historian Michael Stehr will discuss Gian Lorenz Bernini, who was the Michelangelo of the Baroque. He will also present a slide show. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday June 25. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: The Chosen by Chaim Potok. 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Wednesday, June 27. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. July’s People by Nadine Gordimer. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Sunday, July 8. 1 – 4:30 P.M. The 2012 Berkeley Rent Board Convention will be held in the main meeting room of the downtown, central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge, corner of Shattuck. A slate of candidates for the November 2012 election will be chosen. Contact: 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, August 22. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Selections from The Bhagavad Gita. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Sept. 26. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, October 24. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Troth, by Gregor von Rezzon. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, November 28. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Sunday Morning, by Wallace Stevens. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.