Hong Kong Cinema: Coloniser, Motherland and Self

Hong Kong Cinema: Coloniser, Motherland and Self

Hong Kong Cinema: Coloniser, Motherland and Self

Hong Kong Cinema: Coloniser, Motherland and Self


Examining Hong Kong cinema from its inception in 1913 to the end of the colonial era, this work explains the key areas of production, market, film products and critical traditions. Hong Kong Cinema considers the different political formations of Hong Kong's culture as seen through the cinema, and deals with the historical, political, economic and cultural relations between Hong Kong cinema and other Chinese film industries on the mainland, as well as in Taiwan and South-East Asia. Discussion covers the concept of 'national cinema' in the context of Hong Kong's status as a quasi-nation with strong links to both the 'motherland' (China) and the 'coloniser' (Britain), and also argues that Hong Kong cinema is a national cinema only in an incomplete and ambiguous sense.


Defining the 'national' status of a country's cinema has been central to historical film texts and debates since the 1980s. Hong Kong Cinema contemplates the 'national' features of Hong Kong cinema under the British colonial government, using Andrew Higson's four approaches to national cinema: the production-centred industry, the exhibition-led market, the creation of film texts and the emergence of critical traditions.

I have drawn materials from a variety of sources, including historical data on Hong Kong, interviews, newspapers and magazines as well as the films themselves. Using these sources I offer a detailed description and analysis of Hong Kong cinema since the inception of the local film industry in 1913 to the return of the colony to China in 1997. The book examines these materials with reference to recent studies of national cinemas, and social and cultural theories of the construction of national identity.

Although the Hong Kong film industry was situated in a British colony before 1997, I contend that Hong Kong cinema exhibited many characteristics of a national cinema. At the same time I show that Hong Kong cinema was a 'national' cinema only in a very incomplete and ambiguous way. I argue that the cinematic construction of Hong Kong's geopolitical cultural identity articulates a dual cultural identity for Hong Kong as both Hong Kong and China, which also reflects the status of Hong Kong as a 'quasi-nation', existing in a triangular relationship between the British coloniser, the Chinese motherland and Hong Kong self.

My starting point is to develop the argument made in national cinema studies that national identity should not be taken for granted in the cinematic context. Hong Kong Cinema illustrates through different historical periods, how a country's cinema may change, modify and subvert its geopolitically defined identity. Lastly, I agree that, at any given moment, a country's cinema may not necessarily reflect and articulate 'national' characteristics at all levels.

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