The show has begun. The images on the film are projected onto the screen. Is it the beginning or the end? No one can deny that a film is a finished product but as we watch it unfold, the narrative is only half the story ¡V the personalities and the events surrounding the making of the film make up the other half, and the two halves are indisputably intertwined. That is why, apart from the cause of film preservation and restoration, the Film Archive is committed to the research and collection of all forms of materials relating to film. Hence, our Oral History Project allows us to make contact with film people and conduct interviews with them, as part of an ongoing project to research into the history of the development of Hong Kong cinema from all perspectives.
Since 1994, the Archive has interviewed more than 170 film personalities of the Hong Kong cinema. Our emphasis has been on the industry as a whole, and to this end, we have interviewed those personalities from behind the camera as well as the stars who appear before the camera. Most of these artists have contributed their whole lives to the Hong Kong cinema. It is due to them and their recollections of experiences in filmmaking that the Archive has been able to organise extensive events that are praised for their content and educational value. With the aim of providing readers with first-hand information about their participation in the Hong Kong cinema and their personal experiences, we have published this monograph as the first of a series involving our film veterans.
This first issue in the series collects the interviews of eight film veterans who became active in film as early as the 30s and 40s. We have chosen the title, 'Hong Kong Here I Come' to denote the fact that these veterans hailed from Shanghai and other cities in China, and came to Hong Kong after the war. They include Tong Yuejuan, Chin Tsi-ang, Li Lihua, Yue Feng, Wu Pang, Lo Dun, Chen Dieyi and Ho Look-ying. The articles in this monograph tell of their personal experiences and history. From their stories, we can trace the deep historical links between the Chinese and Hong Kong cinemas. Of particular note is the way the veterans have managed the passage of time with incredible grace, preserving professional and personal links with colleagues in the film industry to forge ahead and create illustrious careers... The readers will surely gain more than a touch of nostalgia as they empathise with the veterans recollecting their intimate relationships and friendships.
As members of the audience, it is perhaps only natural that we only experience what is current ¡V what we see in 2000. As readers of this Oral History Project monograph, we will be transported back to the early days of cinema, be brought closer to the film people of the day, and see how they produced movies in a difference era, under different social conditions, and understand why these movies were produced... The films cited in these articles are followed by their years of releases in brackets which will help the readers put their minds in context even though there are usually some discrepancies in the year of release and the year when the film was made.
We have no doubt that the Oral History Project has enriched existing published materials. Some recollections are certainly very intimate but the passage of time may have abbreviated some memories. It is inevitable that some recollections remain vague and hazy and that there is no way that we can make things clear, particularly where the interviewees are of advanced age. For example, director Yue Feng accepted our invitation for an interview in 1994. He died in 1999 which made a follow-up interview impossible. To complement his interview, we have specially invited Cheng Pei-pei, the actress, to give us her recollections of 'Master Yue'. Since quite a number of past publications on famous actors are still available, we have focused on detailing and counter-proving the more important historical details of the veterans' life while editing and arranging these essays, passing over the better known anecdotes. We have striven to clear up contradictory details with the interviewees themselves, and where appropriate we have included footnotes, adding supplementary information in each article. Because of limited space, the English texts are translated in excerpts from the Chinese texts.
The Film Archive hopes that this series of monographs can provide scholars and researchers of Hong Kong cinema with additional perspectives to conduct further studies and researches. We have our film veterans to thank for their support and willingness to partake in this project. In addition, we also thank them for providing rare photographs for publications in this monograph, which greatly enrich its contents.
Hong Kong Film Archive