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Hong Kong Screenscapes

Hong Kong Screenscapes: From the New Wave to the Digital Frontier

Esther M. K. Cheung
Gina Marchetti
Tan See-Kam
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 316
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  • Book Info
    Hong Kong Screenscapes
    Book Description:

    Global connections and screen innovations converge in Hong Kong cinema. Energized by transnational images and human flows from China and Asia, Hong Kong’s commercial filmmakers and independent pioneers have actively challenged established genres and narrative conventions to create a cultural space independent of Hollywood. The circulation of Hong Kong films through art house and film festival circuits, as well as independent DVDs and galleries and internet sites, reveals many differences within global cultural distributions, as well as distinctive tensions between experimental media artists and traditional screen architects. Covering the contributions of Hong Kong New Wave directors such as Wong Kar-wai, Stanley Kwan, Ann Hui, Patrick Tam, and Tsui Hark, the volume links their spirit of innovation to work by independent, experimental, and documentary filmmakers, including Fruit Chan, Tammy Cheung, Evans Chan, Yau Ching and digital artist Isaac Leung. Within an interdisciplinary frame that highlights issues of political marginalization, censorship, sexual orientation, gender hierarchies, “flexible citizenship” and local/global identities, this book speaks to scholars and students within as well as beyond the field of Hong Kong cinema.

    eISBN: 978-988-8053-54-4
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  6. Hong Kong Screenscapes: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Esther M. K. Cheung, Gina Marchetti and Tan See-Kam

    Studies of the Chinese Sixth Generation, Chinese “independent,” “urban,” and “underground” cinema, Chinese documentaries, and other aspects of alternative film practices in the People’s Republic of China have received considerable critical scrutiny and scholarly attention. A more limited, but lively critical discussion of Taiwan’s New Cinema also exists. However, although there are many books about Hong Kong cinema, no single volume focuses exclusively on independent, alternative, and avant-garde filmmaking in the territory. Hong Kong Screenscapes fills this gap not by examining Hong Kong independent media in isolation, but by situating Hong Kong’s independent spirit within the context of global mediascapes....

  7. Part I Voices of the Hong Kong New Wave

    • 1 Do We Hear the City?: Voices of the Stranger in Hong Kong Cinema
      (pp. 17-32)
      Esther M. K. Cheung

      The New Hong Kong Cinema constructs an impressive screenscape through its exploration of estrangement in the urban context.¹ Since the late 1970s, both the first and second wavers have been preoccupied with the portrayal of tensions in the city. To depict estrangement, some filmmakers are interested in aestheticizing violence while others deal with social and psychological alienation in human relationships. Earlier New Wave films such as Tsui Hark’s Dangerous Encounters1st Kind (1980–81), Alex Cheung’s Man on the Brink (1981), and Ann Hui’s The Secret (1979) situate Hong Kong within its many layers of contradictions between the local and...

    • 2 Surfing with the Surreal in Tsui Hark’s Wave: Collage Practice, Diasporic Hybrid Texts, and Flexible Citizenship
      (pp. 33-50)
      Tan See-Kam

      Three men and a woman flee a coastal village inhabited by cannibals on a wooden raft.¹ One man is a secret agent (Agent 999), the other man a thief, while the third is the woman’s younger brother. The woman is called Ah Lin — previously the favorite mistress of Security Chief and now the lover of Agent 999. While running away from the village, Agent 999 accidentally killed Security Chief, the tyrannical village head who lorded over his charge with an iron fist. Behind the leafy foliage on the raft is a fourth man. Suddenly, he leaps at Ah Lin. Comedic...

    • 3 Ann Hui at the Margin of Mainstream Hong Kong Cinema
      (pp. 51-66)
      Mirana M. Szeto

      Women filmmakers generally lack long-term visibility in the mainstream Hong Kong film industry. Ann Hui however succeeds most persistently in the mainstream playing field, with a clear grasp of box-office expectations and a few runaway hits to her name. More importantly, she also maintains critical anticipation and creative visibility among her New Wave contemporaries and resists being limited by set themes or genres expected of a woman filmmaker. This double edge is not easy to accomplish in “a genre-based industry” like Hong Kong and Hollywood, where very “few directors can buck the system and expect to do well at the...

    • 4 Interview with Ann Hui: On the Edge of the Mainstream
      (pp. 67-74)
      Esther M. K. Cheung, Gina Marchetti and Tan See-Kam

      Acclaimed New Wave director Ann Hui held a preview screening of her film, The Way We Are, at the University of Hong Kong shortly after its premiere at the Hong Kong International Film Festival in April 2008.¹ This low-budget feature deals with the quotidian lives of the residents of Tin Shui Wai, a satellite town in Hong Kong’s New Territories near the border with the PRC. Notorious for a slew of social problems associated with its poor, working class, and new immigrant residents, Tin Shui Wai conjures up crime stories, triad tales, and yarns about suicides, prostitution, and juvenile delinquency...

    • 5 Urban Nomads, Exilic Reflections: The Cine-Modernism of Patrick Tam
      (pp. 75-92)
      Esther C. M. Yau

      Cine-modernism appeared on Hong Kong’s television screens in the 1970s with Patrick Tam as a pivotal figure. Tam joined Hong Kong Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) in 1967, shortly after it began over-the-air telecasting and entered every local home as the new “Wireless Television.”¹ By the time it started a Film Unit to produce Cantonese drama series, he had performed a decade’s work as grip, cinematographer, and director in several genres. Tam’s prolific television directing career went from 1975 to 1977. At the Film Unit, he directed twenty-four 16-mm films, each thirty or fifty minutes long and completed within a two-week...

  8. Part II Independent Connections

    • 6 Performing the Margins: Locating Independent Cinema in Hong Kong
      (pp. 95-110)
      Nicole Kempton

      The term “independent” is undoubtedly a problematic descriptor of cinema. Is independence marked by a lack of major studio support? The non-mainstream appeal of the film? The director’s disinterest in box-office takings? The aesthetics or subject matter it deals with? As a highly collaborative and primarily commercial endeavor, filmmaking often involves hundreds of people and institutions working together across a complex web of relationships. It is also an incredibly expensive activity (though becoming cheaper thanks to new technologies), which automatically necessitates the involvement of financiers in the form of governments, foundations, corporations, or wealthy individuals to invest funds, helping the...

    • 7 Re-imagining Hong Kong–China from the Sidelines: Fruit Chan’s Little Cheung and Durian Durian
      (pp. 111-126)
      Wendy Gan

      Chris Berry, in his article “A Nation T(w/o)o: Chinese Cinema(s) and Nationhood(s),” uses Homi Bhaba’s notion of dissemiNation — a process of subversion from within the nation-state by a proliferation of other kinds of “nations” that fragment a unitary collective identity — and brings it to bear in the non-European space of China. Berry examines the various Chinese cinemas (China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) for signs of dissemiNation at work but writing before 1997, he suggests that the dissemiNatory quest in the cinemas of China and Hong Kong is a failure. The former in the wake of the Tiananmen Massacre protects sameness...

    • 8 Alternative Perspectives/Alternative Cinemas: Modern Films and the Hong Kong Experimental Scene
      (pp. 127-142)
      Roger Garcia, John Woo and Jessica Hagedorn

      The international scope of Hong Kong’s alternative cinema scene comes into sharp focus in this conversation with Roger Garcia, John Woo, and award-winning novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Jessica Hagedorn.

      Roger Garcia writes about cinema, programs films for festivals in the United States and Europe, and has produced box-office hit movies in Hollywood and independent films in Asia. His work as a film producer includes many shorts and experimental films in Hong Kong. His work as producer in features includes Sand (1986) by Jim Shum, Macao, Oder Die Rückseite des Meeres (1986) by Clemens Klopfenstein, The Big Hit (1998) with Mark...

    • 9 Specters of Memory: An Artist Statement (Displaced)
      (pp. 143-150)
      Ming-Yuen S. Ma

      A few years ago, I was invited to present my work at a media conference in Hong Kong.¹ On the day I was scheduled to leave Los Angeles, I had rushed from Claremont — in the suburbs east of Los Angeles, where I teach at a private liberal arts college — to get to the Los Angeles International Airport — in the coastal city of Marina Del Rey — to catch my flight. Upon arrival, I discovered I had misread my plane ticket, which was for a flight from the day before! Apparently, a lot of flights from the west coast of the United...

    • 10 Documenting Hong Kong: Interview with Tammy Cheung
      (pp. 151-164)
      Esther M. K. Cheung, Nicole Kempton and Amy Lee

      In recounting the last fifteen years of the independent film movement in Hong Kong, it is impossible not to mention Tammy Cheung’s name.¹ Even though she does not make narrative films, she has nevertheless made inroads with documentary films. She focuses on social and human problems as her subject matter and uses direct cinema as her approach. Without the use of voice-over narration, she explores the limits of objectivity and what she calls the “freedom of movement” in the direct cinema style. Her works such as Secondary School (2002) and July (2004) have elicited a significant response from the community....

    • 11 Between Times and Spaces: Interview with Evans Chan
      (pp. 165-174)
      Esther M. K. Cheung and Nicole Kempton

      A Hong Kong Second Wave filmmaker, Evans Chan’s work is characterized by its transnational context and narrative technique.¹ Migratory experiences, border crossings, and the quest for identity are recurrent themes in his films. One can say that Chan’s migratory experiences in his life naturally have stimulated his interest in these subject matters. Chan was born in Guangdong and grew up in Macau and Hong Kong. In 1984, he furthered his studies in the New School for Social Research in New York and since then he has lived between New York and Hong Kong. As a man wearing many hats and...

    • 12 Hong Kong Cinema and the Film Essay: A Matter of Perception
      (pp. 175-194)
      Mike Ingham

      From Jean-Luc Godard’s intensely subjective cinematic meditations and the ground-breaking, exploratory work of Chris Marker to the more recent sociopolitical polemics and intervention of filmmakers such as Michael Moore, Nick Broomfield, Errol Morris, Michael Winterbottom, and Morgan Spurlock, the cinematic essay, even in the guise of documentary, is now a flourishing and popular form, and one that is no longer viewed as purely experimental or avantgarde. Indeed, the waves of international public concern about climate change triggered by Al Gore’s essayistic argument in An Inconvenient Truth (2006) were palpable. This low-budget “thesis” film caught the popular mood and contributed significantly...

  9. Part III Sex in the Asian City

    • 13 Between Comrade and Queer: Stanley Kwan’s Hold You Tight
      (pp. 197-212)
      Gina Marchetti

      The redefinition of “Hong Kong” occasioned by the 1997 Handover coincided with the re-imagination of the city in other ways as well.¹ Defined with and against Britain, the People’s Republic of China, and Taiwan, Hong Kong clearly needed to reorient itself in more ways than one. Queer desire, public awareness of LGBTQ concerns, and relative freedom from the violence of homophobia became significant markers of Hong Kong’s ability to gauge the general level of personal freedom in the territory before and after July 1, 1997. While issues of language, ethnicity, national sovereignty, economics, and politics remained high on the agenda,...

    • 14 Interview with Yau Ching: Filming Women in Hong Kong’s Queerscape
      (pp. 213-224)
      Gina Marchetti

      Yau Ching’s Ho Yuk: Let’s Love Hong Kong (2002) is the first narrative feature film about Hong Kong lesbians told from a lesbian/feminist perspective.¹ Yau Ching’s road to filmmaking shows how Hong Kong’s vibrant alternative film and video culture can nurture innovation, strengthen ties to the world filmmaking community, and involve Hong Kong filmmakers in the expansion of the public sphere for the marginalized, maligned, and dispossessed. The story of its production also highlights the connections between Hong Kong independent cinema and international trends in queer counter-cinemas. In this interview, Yau Ching talks about her development as a filmmaker, her...

    • 15 On Isaac Leung, Cyber Sex as Pseudo-Science: The Artist’s Search for Sex Spaces in Hong Kong (and Beyond)
      (pp. 225-238)
      Katrien Jacobs

      I once read a well-researched graduate thesis about three decades of anti-porn and pro-porn feminism in the United States.¹ The student Lana Scott reviewed all the existing academic literature and concluded that more than 85 percent of the literature had an anti-porn bias. She then developed a questionnaire and interviewed a heterogeneous group of women about their relationship to pornography. Her results showed that the majority of women would want pornography. She had carefully worked out her research methodology and came up with new findings. But in the end I wondered: “But what is the meaning of these findings?” “Are...

    • 16 The Mistress and Female Sexuality
      (pp. 239-252)
      Patricia Brett Erens

      When Crystal Kwok’s The Mistress was first released in 1999, I was immediately taken with its uniqueness in the context of Hong Kong cinema. Not only did it differ significantly from the usual male action and martial arts films, but it seemed to me to have a good deal to say about the social/cultural environment of Hong Kong that had not previously been dealt with on the screen. Equally important, it spoke to the female experience and resonated with many issues being discussed in the United States or being treated in novels, articles, and art works. At the time, it...

    • 17 Reimagining the Femme Fatale: Gender and Nation in Fruit Chan’s Hollywood Hong Kong
      (pp. 253-262)
      Pin-Chia Feng

      Hong Kong independent filmmaker Fruit Chan is best known for his portrayals of the everyday life of Hong Kong people, especially those in relation to the underclass. In his Marxist analysis of the class imaginary in Chan’s filmic texts, Wimal Dissanayake in fact credits Chan as a pioneering figure in Hong Kong cinema who can present persuasive depictions of “the class predicament of the urban proletariat.”¹ Indeed Fruit Chan has created numerous memorable characters existing on the margin of society in his films. This chapter explores the representations of sex workers in Chan’s Hollywood Hong Kong (2001) and focuses specifically...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 263-286)
  11. Index
    (pp. 287-296)