A Companion to Hong Kong Cinema: Introduction

Time haunts Hong Kong cinema in a peculiar way that sets it apart from other film cultures. Critics talk about it in terms of “time pieces” (Stephens 1996), “poets of time” (Rayns 1995), “translating time” (Lim 2001), “violence of time” (Law 2006), and “marking time” (Ma 2010). As Esther M.K. Cheung and Chu Yiu-wai (2004) remind us, Hong Kong film exists at a time of crisis “between home and world.” As a colony on “borrowed time” and as a “Special Administrative Region (SAR),” then and now, Hong Kong marks time in several inevitable shifts in its political identity. Economic booms and busts, imperial twists and turns, postcolonial pains and global migrations give it a timeline unique in world cinema. Hong Kong films narrate our postmodern present and open a window to exilic nostalgia, urban (un) consciousness, everyday imaginations, collective memories, and cultural representations of the past that speak to audiences far beyond the territory’s borders. Filmmakers put “time” on screen as indicated by the titles of films such as Fulltime Killer (2003), Once Upon a Time in China (1991–97), Time and Tide (2000), Ashes of Time (1994) and As Time Goes By (1997). However, looking at Hong Kong film in “real” time gives pause. The year 2009 may or may not have been the centenary of Hong Kong cinema. The Benjamin Brodsky-produced comic short, “Stealing a Roast Duck,” […]

Written by Esther M.K. Cheung, Gina Marchetti and Esther C. M. Yau
Published in A Companion to Hong Kong Cinema, eds. Esther M. K. Cheung, Gina Marchetti and Esther C. M. Yau, Chichester, West Sussex; Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons, 2015, pp. 1-13.