Hong Kong Filmography is an essential resource to the understanding and study of Hong Kong cinema. From the materials in the book, it is possible for us to find out when Hong Kong began to produce films, how many films it produced in any particular year, and what types of films it produced. We may also find out what film genres or trends first appeared in Hong Kong cinema, what then prevailed over the years, as well as the most popular genre or trend of every decade.
From the materials, we may also know when important film companies, directors, actors first appeared in Hong Kong cinema, how many films they made, and what their most important films were. We may find out when the first sound film, colour film, 3-D film, widescreen film, documentary, Cantonese film, Mandarin film, Amoy film and Chiu Chow dialect film appeared.
With the materials in hand, it is possible for us to study any particular aspect of Hong Kong cinema (such as the kung fu film genre, the films of Zhonglian Film Company, or the films of actor Ng Cho-fan) in a more profound and comprehensive way. If we were unable to master such information, it would be impossible for us to undertake an in-depth study of Hong Kong cinema.
Twenty-five years ago when I started to study Hong Kong cinema, I was already aware of the importance of compiling the Hong Kong filmography. I knew that if I did not first master the filmography, I would not be able to fully and systematically study Hong Kong cinema. Thus, I spent seven years to carefully collect and compile a comprehensive Hong Kong filmography (according to such categories as fiction films, documentaries, Cantonese films and Mandarin films) which was first published in the Hong Kong International Film Festival catalogues by the Urban Council and again in the Regional Council's publication Eighty Years of Hong Kong Cinema. My sources included newspapers (mainly Chinese Mail and Wah Kiu Yat Po), production logs of film companies (such as Grandview and Zhonglian), records of Hong Kong movie distributors (such as Wang Lei and Tai Hing Hong), film lists of Hong Kong's television stations (such as TVB and ATV), and existing materials and publications from the pre-war period including films, film catalogues, synopses and screenplays (coming primarily from film pioneer Kwan Man-ching).
I began to work for the Hong Kong Film Archive in 1995. My first assignment was to conduct research work for Hong Kong Filmography, Vol. I 1913-1941, in effect to compile a filmography of pre-war Hong Kong films. On receiving the assignment, I immediately started compiling and proofreading materials on pre-war films together with my assistant Miss Janice Chow. Miss Chow and I went to the South China Morning Post library to look through their collection of Wah Kiu Yat Po from 1925 to 1941, to the Shek Tong Tsui Public Library to look through the pre-war issues of Industrial and Commercial Daily Press, Industrial and Commercial Evening Press and Tien Kwong Morning News, and to Guangzhou's Zhongshan University to read through those issues of Industrial and Commercial Daily Press which were missing in the Shek Tong Tsui Public Library and the pre-war issue of Tsun Wan Yat Po. In Guangzhou, we also looked through the pre-war issues of Ming Kao Daily News (which contained lots of advertisements of Hong Kong movies) at the Huanan University of Education. My assistant also went to the Hong Kong University to look through the pre-war issues of Chinese Mail, Nam Keung Yat Po, Sing Tao Yat Po and South China Review.
All these materials, including film advertisements, newsletters, synopses, reviews and publicity blurbs (over 2,000 pieces of information) were photographed by us. We then opened a file for each film title and composed a table that listed out each film's production details including its title, production company, date of release, genre, members of the crew and the cast, plus a short synopsis and a still from the film. After composing the table, all the materials were handed over to the editorial team for editing work, translation and proofreading.
At this point, I must bring up the question concerning the definition of 'Hong Kong films'. In my opinion, a 'Hong Kong film' must be made by a company that is established in Hong Kong (even though the company may not have a long history or has only a small office). If its production company is not established in Hong Kong, the film cannot be considered as a 'Hong Kong film'. As early as 1909, Hong Kong produced its first fiction film Stealing the Roasted Duck. However, since the film's production company, Asia Film Company, was located in Shanghai, I have not included this film in this filmography. Instead, I consider that the first Hong Kong film ever made should be Chuang Tzu Tests His Wife which was made in 1913. This explains why Hong Kong Filmography Vol. I 1913-1941 begins not with Stealing the Roasted Duck, but with Chung Tzu Tests His Wife.
After nearly a year's research work, Hong Kong Filmography Vol. I 1913-1941, is finally finished. The work of collecting and compiling materials on pre-war Hong Kong films has been very difficult because little has been preserved. Out of the 600 feature films and documentaries produced in the pre-war years, it is estimated that only four features and one documentary have survived and there are less than 20 synopses and 50 film stills preserved from that period. Since most of the information contained in the filmography came from film advertisements in different newspapers and a very small number of newsletters and reviews, this filmography cannot claim to be complete. We hope that we may discover more resources and materials in the future to complement and rectify on what we already know. I know that there are still omissions in the present volume that the readers and film experts may help us fill in in the future amended edition.
The Hong Kong Film Archive undertakes to publish a Hong Kong Filmography which will take us to the '90s. It is estimated that the work will be carried out over the next few years and the HKFA will do its best to finish the work in good time.
Finally, I wish to extend my thanks to all those who have helped in putting out Hong Kong Filmography including Miss Winnie Yuen, Miss Irene Leung, Miss Angel Shing and Miss Kwok Ching-ling.