This year is the 100th anniversary of Hong Kong cinema. Films were shot in the colony by foreigners as early as 1898, but it wasn’t until 1908 that Russian-American Benjamin Brodsky hired theatre director Lian Shaobo to make two comic shorts. Lian later joined the Minxin Company in Hong Kong to make the first HK feature in 1925. The era’s network quickly grew to encompass both Shanghai’s maturing industry and influences from across the Pacific, with Chinese-American filmmakers Kwan Manching and Chiu Ahu-sun establishing Hong Kong’s pioneering Grandview studio.
These inaugural developments foreshadowed the pragmatic commercialism that would drive Hong Kong cinema’s success in post-war Asia. Mandarin-speaking mainland studio veterans competed with Cantonese studios, and Hong Kong films dove headlong into the international arena. Eventually, a locally born art cinema would enable a city of just six million to sustain the second largest film industry in Asia.
Since the 1980s, Hong Kong filmmakers have faced severe challenges in the cinema marketplace even as they achieve ever-wider international critical recognition. This panel of critics, archivist-historians and film programmers will discuss the past and prospects of Hong Kong cinema – 100 years after they started.
Sam Ho, head, Hong Kong Film Archive
Jessica Li, visiting fellow, York University
Raymond Phathanavirangoon, international programmer, Toronto International Film Festival and Reel Asian
MODERATOR: Bart Testa, professor of Cinema Studies, University of Toronto