Union Film is one of the most important film companies in Hong Kong history.
Established in 1952, releasing its debut film in 1953 and ceasing production in 1964, Union Film was active for only thirteen short years. Yet it managed to fundamentally transform Cantonese cinema and, to a larger extent, Hong Kong film.
The company was founded by filmmakers and operated as a cooperative, with various forms of reduced and often deferred payment to cut down on start-up cost. The 21 shareholders included twelve actors and nine directors or producers, all among the industry's best. The early 1950s was an eventful period for Hong Kong cinema which was enjoying a production boom after post-war reconstruction but also faced with indignant outcries against shoddy products and corrupting values. Union Film emerged amid calls for clean-up, declaring commitment to artistic excellence and the moral function of film.
Union Film made good on this commitment to both form and content. Production periods were longer than most other Cantonese films, with a healthy emphasis on scripts, realized in turn by some of the industry's best directors and actors. Its early films are either adapted from literature or original works, most of them eagerly portraying the harsh reality of a Hong Kong besieged with all forms of social injustices. The company's first releases were met with phenomenal responses both commercially and critically, their success in fact revolutionized Cantonese cinema.
Most of the films are compelling, well-told stories marked also by moral beliefs coalesced from half a century of intense debate and vigorous incubation of often conflicting ideas in modern China. Such beliefs are expressed – at once openly and seamlessly -- in ways readily understood by audiences of all educational levels. The result is a company and a body of works that effuse moral charisma, a Union Film spirit of fabled proportions.
The Union Film spirit was a major inspiration for the Hong Kong Film Archive during our early years. The company's dedication to the art of film, the moral convictions in its works and the mettle of cooperation motivated us to work hard towards the preservation of our film heritage. As we celebrate our 10thAnniversary this year, we're proud to present the complete retrospective of Union Film's glorious catalogue of titles.
Special thanks to ATV for granting rights to the films and leasing copies for this presentation.
The contents of the programme do not represent the views of the presenter.
The presenter reserves the right to change the programme should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary.