The Cold War was a global event that affected life in many different ways. Caught between opposing political forces and constrained by market restrictions, filmmakers were able to work their ways around the rules and managed to embed covert ideological messages in their works. To tie in with its latest publication "The Cold War and Hong Kong Cinema", the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) will next month screen five films discussed in the book.
The book, in Chinese, includes articles analysed in the context of historical, cultural and social terms the connections between the Cold War and Hong Kong cinema.
It is a collection of essays by scholars and researchers who participated in "The Cold War Factor in Hong Kong Cinema" symposium jointly presented by the HKFA and the Centre of Asian Studies, The University of Hong Kong in 2006. It also includes government and private organisations documents and oral history by film veterans.
The new publication will be on sale from mid-June at the HKFA. The five films: "On the Waterfront", "The 72 Martyrs of Canton", "Air Hostess", "The Red Detachment of Women" and "China Behind" will be screened from June 12-21 at the Cinema of the HKFA.
Director Elia Kazan's classic "On the Waterfront" (1954) was highly critical of union corruption. The line "I coulda been a contender..." delivered by Marlon Brando in the back of a cab, had gone down history as one of the greatest, and the scene containing it considered one of the best acted. Yet the film was banned in Hong Kong in 1954. According to official records, the colonial government was worried that the film's depiction of labour unions might incite unrest among local workers and the ban was not lifted for three years.
Xie Jin's "The Red Detachment of Women" (1961), featuring a woman's battle with a wicked landlord in China, was itself in the centre of a battle for public viewing in Hong Kong. In 1965, the left-wing press, citing the ban on this film as an example, launched a protest campaign about the colonial government's discrimination against Mainland films. The campaign succeeded in forcing the colonial government to loosen restrictions on some of the Mainland films although "The Red Detachment of Women" remained off-limits until 1971.
"China Behind" (1974) was the first Hong Kong film depicting the cultural revolution. Although director Tong Shu-shuen claimed that she made the film not for political reasons but to portray young people's struggle between ideal and reality, the film was not shown in Hong Kong until the 1980s.
Artists and filmmakers have a way of finding creative ways to express their views when confronted with limitations. Based on the heroic deeds of a group of revolutionaries who were killed in an uprising against the Qing government, the key message of "The 72 Martyrs of Canton" (1954) was about bravery. Evan Yang, who enjoyed close ties with the Kuomintang in Taiwan, made the film "Air Hostess" which is about the work of air hostesses played by Grace Chang and Julie Yeh Feng to promote Taiwan's natural beauty and economic and social development.
To supplement the screenings, a seminar will be held at 4.30pm on June 13 at the Cinema of the HKFA after the screening of "The 72 Martyrs of Canton". Research Assistant Professor, Centre of Asian Studies of The University of Hong Kong, Dr Lee Pui-tak, and Assistant Professor of Humanities of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Professor Kenny Ng, will share their views on the Cold War and Hong Kong film. The seminar will be conducted in Cantonese. Admission is free.
"On the Waterfront" is in English and "China Behind" has English subtitles. Other films are in Putonghua. Tickets priced at $30 for all screenings are available at all URBTIX outlets. Half-priced tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009, or on the internet at www.urbtix.hk.
Detailed programme information can be obtained in the "ProFolio 47" distributed at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900 or browse the website: www.filmarchive.gov.hk or www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp .
Ends/Monday, May 25, 2009