While Hong Kong’s reputation as a cinematic powerhouse has faded, the movies that were produced played an instrumental role in the development of the Asian film industry.
In an effort to encourage a re-examination of the city's
rich cinematic history -- which encompasses so much more than kung fu -- the Hong Kong Film
Archive is hosting an ongoing series for what it has dubbed the
must-see Hong Kong films". Assembled by a
panel of experts, the list highlights movies that are largely
unrecognized today, but are nonetheless seminal works in their own right.
Because of the city’s international community, free
economic and political systems, as well as its status as a regional centre for
capital and investment, Hong Kong emerged as hub of Chinese cinematic
production in the post-World War II era with industry drivers like the Shaw
Brothers Studio. Local filmmaking reached another pinnacle in the 1970s with
martial arts stars like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, and entered another
influential era a decade later with New Wave and Second Wave directors like
John Woo and Wong Kar-wai.
"Most citizens of [Hong Kong] are aware that we
have a rich cinematic heritage, which includes a substantial number of
wonderful films," writes Sam Ho,
programmer at the Hong Kong Film Archive, in the
series' introduction. "Yet, this rich tradition remains largely
unrecognized, even ignored. Old movies are often considered irrelevant, poorly
made and, perhaps worst, boring."
These films, though, are anything but. The screening schedule for February
includes the screwball comedy 92 The Legendary la Rose Noire
(1992), which offers a farcical look ahead to the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from
Britain back to China. In March, the role of
the family matriarch is scrutinized in Motherhood
(1960) and Days of Being Wild
(1990), both tales that hinge on unpacking the complexities of mother-child
There are two screenings of each film, one at the film archive in
Sai Wan Ho and the other at indie theatre Broadway Cinematheque in
Yau Ma Tei. Tickets are 40
Hong Kong dollars and are available online, by phone
(+852-2734-9009) or at the two cinemas.
Until 4 March, in the archive's exhibitive space,
there's also an interactive display of films, photos, memorabilia and artefacts
in a show called "The Wheel of Time",
which chronicles a century of Hong Kong's film history.
R Alberts is the Hong Kong Localite for BBC Travel