by Frank Bren
- the dramatized odyssey of Esther Eng starts and ends in Hawai'i -
( feature in development - a second page en route ... )


16 May,2010Mad Fire Mad Love was the main release-title of Esther's last feature as director. It was shot over a three-month period (mid to late 1948) in and around the Hawai'ian islands. Much was then made of this film and of Esther by Hololulu's business and civic leaders ....     In May 2001, I attempted a motion picture scenario - a biopic of Esther Eng - together with a co-writer, registering it (though not yet a script) with the Writers' Guild of America (WGA). By October 2003, disenchanted with the scenario, my fellow writer termed this a "mission impossible" and gave it up. Nonetheless, registered or not, that scenario was now out of bounds. On 25 November 2006, aware that I might soon possess several hundred stills of Esther, her family, her work colleagues, her close friends and indeed scenes from some of her movies (almost all of them being "lost"), I wrote and emailed a new "pitch" to a friend outlining a general vision of an onscreen "biopic" (with documentary overtones) entirely using such stills: those in prospect plus others created by a photographer genius (when I eventually found such a collaborator). The email, cc'd to myself, served as a de facto copyright document for the new approach, which, in itself, did not a treatment yet make: ............... 25 November 2006: " ... using entirely the 1000+plus stills, available footage (plus) maybe extra stills shot from contemporary news headlines. The two immediate examples that come to mind for this sort of approach being Chris Marker’s (film) “La Jetée” and Andrzej Munk’s posthumously completed feature,“The Passenger” I also imagine this as a sort of “life and times” of Esther – the sources of her films - including backgrounds on Chinese theatre in America, San Francisco’s Chinatown before and after the great earthquake [i.e., of 1906] , the White America policy, contemporary offerings in San Francisco’s competing theatres (...)  the Sino-Japanese war, Grandview [the San Francisco- and HK- based film company], of course HK cinema, etc etc – and budgeting for an on-the-ground researcher in Oakland/Berkeley/San Francisco who could (for one thing) go through all the local Chinese newspapers of the period – there are several, not housed in San Francisco but in Berkeley University (while budgeting also) for other “on-the-ground” researchers elsewhere ...

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Copyright Frank Bren, 2001 and 2010. Site enquiries to Frank via  Selected images of Esther Eng and stills from her films are reproduced by kind permission of Esther's sister, Sally Ng Kam-ping. Others come from Frank Bren's  private collection.

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