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"The Wheel of Time: 100 Years of Light and Shadow" exhibition at HK Film Archive

     Rickshaws running along Queen's Road Central, 14 families sheltered under the same roof and tussling over water and fire, a post-war generation looking for new identity and culture... With a wealth of film images from different eras, Hong Kong cinema has documented the social life, culture and different facets of its home city. The Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s exhibition "The Wheel of Time: 100 Years of Light and Shadow" takes visitors through a journey illuminated with the sights and sounds of the geography, politics, social life and culture of the city.

     "The Wheel of Time: 100 Years of Light and Shadow" recounts the development of Hong Kong cinema in connection with many significant social changes the city underwent from 1898 to 2010. The exhibition is on display until March 4 at the Exhibition Hall of the HKFA. Admission is free.

     Starting with a time tunnel installation, the exhibition consists of six areas. Zone one, "Integration and Consolidation", features Hong Kong from 1898 to 1949. "The Edison Shorts", the documentary shot by the Edison Company in 1898, captures some of the earliest sights of Hong Kong and the livelihood of the fishing island. Shots from "A Trip Through China" (1916) take the audience on a spectacular walk past the classical and renaissance architecture in Central; commercial buildings and scenery along the waterfront; sea and land transport like ferries, sedan chairs, rickshaws and tram cars; and the different lifestyles of Westerners and the local Chinese.

     When redevelopment after World War II was in full swing, people were still haunted by physical and emotional trauma. In zone two, "Homeland and Metropolis", movies like "The Kid" (1950) show the devastation of a war-broken family while "Save Your Water Supply" (1954), "Should They Marry?" (1951) and "Our Sister Hedy" (1957) reflect the livelihood of the grass-roots family and the rise of the middle class.

     The exhibition zone entitled "Old Values and New Blood" focuses on the era of youth and the changes from 1960 to 1975. "The Delinquent" (1973) and "The Orphan" (1960) show the erosion of public safety, as well as housing and labour problems with the increase of the population and industrialisation. Michael Hui's "The Last Message" (1975) is a satire on the craziness of Hong Kong people when it comes to the stock market. Director Chang Cheh's "The Assassin" (1967) and Bruce Lee's action films reflect the frustration of youths and the dream of the oppressed working class to fight back. Erotic films like "Women of Desire" (1974) and "Golden Lotus" (1972) were a breakthrough in their departure from traditional culture.

     As the economy started to recover, local pop culture attained primacy during the 1970s. The young directors of the New Wave cinema made many groundbreaking films, and their creative works blazed a trail for the golden age of local cinema. The zone "Insurrection and Breakthrough" shows how the society faced challenges at the time. The film "Anti-Corruption" (1975) is based on the bribery case involving police chief superintendent Peter Fitzroy Godber, "The Story of Woo Viet" (1981) is a truthful and sympathetic reflection on the situation of Vietnamese refugees, "The Private Eyes" (1976) and "Aces Go Places" (1982) feature the livelihood of the working class and the middle class, and "Boat People" (1982) and "Long Arm of the Law" (1884) indicate that collective anxiety loomed large as 1997 approached.

     The zone entitled "Glory and Downturn" focuses on the era from 1985 to 1997, in which the then Oriental Pearl's lustre was dulled by pessimism. The tragic hero film "A Better Tomorrow" (1986), the trendsetting absurd nonsensical comedy "All for the Winner" (1990) and the rare political satire "Her Fatal Ways" (1990) reflect the wariness of Hong Kong people. "The Other 1/2 & the Other 1/2" (1988) and "Made in Hong Kong" (1997) express uncertainty and a lack of confidence in the future after the handover.

     The last section, "Motherland and Locality", features the post-1997 era and filmmakers' responses to crises in politics, the economy and social life. The undercover sting films of the "Infernal Affairs" trilogy (2002-03) incorporated the sentiments of Hong Kong identity in the action-cop genre, "Shaolin Soccer" (2001) is testimony to the resilience of the Hong Kong people after the financial crisis, "1:99" (2003) is an attempt to give medical practitioners a much-needed boost and to pray for an end to calamities, and "McDull, Prince de la Bun" (2004) and "Echoes of the Rainbow" (2009) rise to calls for conservation and heritage preservation.

     The exhibition is open from 10am to 8pm, and the HKFA is closed on Thursdays. For enquiries about the exhibition, please call 2739 2139.

Ends/Thursday, January 26, 2012


The Hong Kong Film Archive's exhibition "The Wheel of Time: 100 Years of Light and Shadow".


The Hong Kong Film Archive's exhibition "The Wheel of Time: 100 Years of Light and Shadow".



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