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Fruit Chan's Made in Hong Kong

Fruit Chan's Made in Hong Kong

Esther M. K. Cheung
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 196
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  • Book Info
    Fruit Chan's Made in Hong Kong
    Book Description:

    This tragic coming-of-age story follows three disillusioned local youths struggling to navigate Hong Kong public housing projects and late adolescence amid violent crime, gang pressure, and broken homes. Their personal friendships and family lives intersect with a mysterious fourth protagonist, a girl whose suicide haunts the other three throughout the film as they move toward their own premature ends. This 1997 film was the first in Chan’s acclaimed "handover trilogy." Shot on a very low budget, utilizing excess film stock, amateur actors, and a crew of five, it marked the beginning of Chan’s career as an independent film director.

    eISBN: 978-988-8053-41-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Series Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Ackbar Abbas and Wimal Dissanayake
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. 1 Introduction: History beyond the Death Trips
    (pp. 1-20)

    A typical story of disaffected youth and the morbid trips they take, Made in Hong Kong (1997) narrates the tale of four youngsters coming from the lower sector of Hong Kong society. Moon (Zhongqiu/Chung-chau), Ping (Ping/Ping), Sylvester (Long/Lung), and Susan (Shan/San) are all subject to the cruel realities of life in a big city.² Like many Hong Kong lower-class inhabitants, they reside in the public housing estates known for their dismal living conditions. Moon and Ping both grow up in families where irresponsible fathers have run away from home. Their mothers are neither courageous nor enduring. Sylvester, a mentally handicapped...

  6. 2 Authenticity and Independence: Fruit Chan and Independent Filmmaking
    (pp. 21-38)

    Independent and experimental filmmaking has existed for many decades. However, as independent filmmaker Bryan Chang claims, there has never been such a film movement in Hong Kong, no matter how politically conscious and cosmopolitan its filmmakers have been.² In their slightly different periodizations of Hong Kong independent cinema, both May Fung, a veteran video-artist in Hong Kong, and Connie Lam trace its beginning to the 1960s, emphasizing the importance of the 1990s revival.³

    To quote from Lam, the 1960s was an exciting time when Super 8 and 16mm films were introduced to Hong Kong, paving the way for developments in...

  7. 3 There Are Many Ways to Be Realistic
    (pp. 39-52)

    Although the impossibility of obtaining absolute independence is our ontological condition, we can identify “independent motivations” in specific historical times — the moral incentive to search for independence within constraints. Elsewhere I have described these historical disjunctures as “moments of danger,” borrowing from Walter Benjamin, to explore the sense of urgency that one mobilizes to articulate a disappearing, disjointed time in history. Such moral incentives interact with creativity to produce what neo-formalists would call “realistic motivations.”² This chapter explores Chan’s realist mode in the traditions of Chineselanguage cinemas.

    To link independent films with realism, however, is sometimes useful and sometimes misleading,...

  8. 4 The Art of Détournement
    (pp. 53-78)

    Culture is an ongoing process of renewal and negation. In his discussion of hegemony and structures of feeling, Raymond Williams outlines a relation between the dominant and the residual, and between the dominant and the emergent. In both cases, the relation of emergent and residual cultural formations to the dominant can roughly be understood as alternative and oppositional. While the dominant is always hegemonic enough to incorporate or repress the other two in political or commercial contexts, the emergent and the residual may coexist with the dominant in the same cultural space in an ongoing process of renewal and negation....

  9. 5 In Search of the Ghostly in Context
    (pp. 79-100)

    Made in Hong Kong demonstrates a dual moment of defamiliarization. The previous chapter described how realistic motivations were mobilized to shatter the myths and ideologies inherent in the dominant, commercial genre. Realism as a style in Fruit Chan’s other films clearly embodies an alternative vision to Hong Kong history and culture depicted in commercial cinema. On the other hand, his “realist” films should be regarded as a mixture of realistic and surrealistic traits. In his “quasi-realist” style, a “spectral city” is constructed.² This mixed mode, involving dramatic and surrealistic elements, undermines one’s sense of reality at a moment of critical...

  10. 6 In Search of the Ghostly in Urban Spaces
    (pp. 101-124)

    The notion of the “ghostly city” in Fruit Chan’s films is not a literal reference to actual ghosts; the emphasis is more on the exploration of homelessness. With reference to recent scholarship on emotion, the feeling of homelessness in Made in Hong Kong can be traced to the 1997 handover and the longer-term socio-economic background of lower-class people and their dismal living conditions in low-cost housing estates. The disbanded soldiers, illegal immigrants, and prostitutes from the mainland depicted in Chan’s later films played no part in the grand narrative of Hong Kong as an economic miracle. These characters are also...

  11. 7 Epilogue: Grassrooting Cinematic Practices
    (pp. 125-128)

    Within a short span of ten years, Fruit Chan has produced an ensemble of films with his own signature style. Motivated by the intention to pursue independence and authenticity, he has shown us how auteurism and creativity have interacted to produce films of immense social and cultural significance. From his energetic and explosive debut to his more quiet docu-dramas, he demonstrates how one’s sense of urgency to respond to the changing world renders filmmaking in “a state of emergency,” to borrow from Walter Benjamin. Artistic and cultural artifices thrive on threat, danger, crisis, and catastrophe. “As momentous changes in history...

  12. Appendix 1: Interview with Fruit Chan
    (pp. 129-144)
  13. Appendix 2: Funding Sources and Awards
    (pp. 145-150)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 151-166)
  15. Credits
    (pp. 167-170)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 171-178)