Professional singer and actress Sophie Gopsill, who lives in Uckfield, is enjoying touring the world as a film she is in is shown, and acclaimed, at film festivals from Edinburgh to London, New York, South Africa, and Milan.
On Sunday Sophie is heading to Hong Kong – where there was originally to be one screening of the film but now are five – and what she is really hoping for on her return is that The Receptionist can be shown at The Picture House in Uckfield.
The Receptionist is based on a true story and follows the lives of Asian migrant women who arrived in London in hope of a better life but end up taking jobs in an illegal massage parlour.
They then have to conceal their predicament and the hardships they face due to the stigma attached to working in the sex industry.
The story is told through the eyes of a Taiwanese receptionist at the massage parlour. Sophie plays the mama-san, or madam, Lily there.
Sophie’s own story is just as, if not more, compelling than that in the film, for she spent seven years of her life in a hard labour camp after her parents were imprisoned by China’s Mao regime.
She was born in Hong Kong but moved with her parents to China in 1950 where her conductor and composer father, Zhuo Ming Lee, directed the Beijing National Opera House and the Harbin Opera House while her mother was operatic director.
Hard labour camp
In the early 1960s the Cultural Revolution halted Sophie’s own musical education. Her parents were sent to prison for being ‘intellectuals’ while Sophie and her sisters were sent to hard labour camp for seven years on the Sino-Soviet border, living in primitive conditions in temperatures down to -40C in the winter.
When the chaos subsided Sophie became a member of a western classical music and drama group in China. In 1980 she returned to Hong Kong and toured extensively in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, performing in live concerts, sports stadiums, on TV, radio and in opera houses and also for charity benefits.
She emigrated to the UK in 1985 and continued her career before battling cancer and a brain tumour in the late 80s and early 90s.
Having recovered she moved to Italy in 1998 and spent six years performing there and appearing as an actress in an Italian TV film drama.
Since returning to live the UK Sophie has been to Hong Kong several times and most recently was there for a memorial concert for her late father.
She came to Uckfield to be near other members of her family.
The Receptionist was premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June last year. It proved to be a huge success at the Raindance Film Festival in London in September and at the London East Asian Film Festival in October.
The film was also shown at the New York Asian Film Festival, in South Africa and in Milan.
At the Salento Film Festival in Italy it won best feature film, and at the Sochi International Film Festival it won best feature film and Oscar.
The Salento International Film Festival have now taken it to Hong Kong.
The film was produced in Taiwan where it sold more than 350,000 tickets and won prizes at the Golden Horse Film Festival.
Picture House owner Kevin Markwick says he is interested in showing The Receptionist in Uckfield and will be talking to the distributors, and Sophie, to see if that is possible and she is delighted by the prospect.
Sophie talks about her role in the film in the YouTube video below:
Find local businesses in our Uckfield Directory