Hong Kong films’ integration into nat’l development
Going north
Published: Jun 21, 2022 05:38 PM
Poster for upcoming movie <em>Integrity</em> starring Simon Yam (left) and Aaron Kwok A statue of Bruce Lee in Hong Kong Photos: IC

A statue of Bruce Lee in Hong Kong Photo: IC

Poster for upcoming movie <em>Integrity</em> starring Simon Yam (left) and Aaron Kwok A statue of Bruce Lee in Hong Kong Photos: IC

Poster for upcoming movie Integrity starring Simon Yam (left) and Aaron Kwok Photo: IC

As the forerunner of Chinese films in the 20th century, Hong Kong films have been enjoyed and discussed by movie fans around the world as their influence has spread far and wide.

Since Hong Kong's return to the motherland, more and more Hong Kong filmmakers have been exploring cooperation possibilities with the Chinese mainland by integrating themselves into the mainland culture and market.

"In the process of cultural exchanges and integration with the mainland, Hong Kong films have gained a wider field of vision. The national consciousness has become more prominent in the works of Hong Kong filmmakers," said Ma Fung-kwok, chairman of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles Hong Kong Member Association.

Broader perspective

In the 1970s and 1980s, Hong Kong films made high achievements in production, box office, quality and artistry, earning a reputation as "the Hollywood of the East."

"Rich elements were included in Hong Kong films in the 1970s and 1980s, and creative talents kept emerging who made films dynamic and attractive," said Hong Kong actor Simon Yam.

In the 1990s, Hong Kong film waned. The number of filmmakers in Hong Kong dropped to less than 5,000 in 2003 from 20,000 in the 1980s due to difficulties such as the financial crisis and some internal problems in the film industry.

According to Ma, Hong Kong's return to the motherland in 1997 provided a foundation for increased communication between the mainland and Hong Kong film industries.

"Some Hong Kong filmmakers began to realize that if they wanted to find new development opportunities, they must put their eyes on the mainland market," Ma said.

The signing of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement in 2003 provided a "new engine" for Hong Kong films to enter the mainland market, and a large number of Hong Kong filmmakers followed the trend of "going north" to seek development.

Ma's words were echoed by Hong Kong filmmaker Tenky Tin. 

"The development of mainland films is at its best. The rapid development of the film industry and rich social themes have provided opportunities for Hong Kong filmmakers."

Hong Kong filmmakers will have more room to play their part in the process of integrating into the national development, Tin said.

Mainland themes

In recent years, it has become popular for Hong Kong film directors to cooperate with mainland companies and producers to direct mainstream films, which have absorbed the filmmaking elements from Hong Kong's successful commercial films while also giving "China stories" a richer perspective.

From films such as The Taking of Tiger Mountain to The Bravest, The Captain and The Battle at Lake Changjin, it is not hard to see that Hong Kong filmmakers interpret the profound love of the Chinese people for their family and their country well, making mainstream films attractive and box-office hits.

"Telling 'China stories' gives me a great sense of achievement and happiness," said Hong Kong film director Dante Lam, adding that the inspiring stories portrayed through his lens were all created in the context of national development.

Ma believes that agreeing with mainland values, while giving full play to the advantages of the Hong Kong film industry, is the key to Hong Kong filmmakers' success in the mainland.

In November 2021, The Battle at Lake Changjin, a movie set during the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (1950-53), landed in Hong Kong theaters. On the first day of its release, 149 screenings were scheduled in nearly 40 theaters, with tickets of some screenings hard to get.

Tin believes that the popularity of this movie in Hong Kong reflects the rising sense of national identity among residents, who are eager to learn about the country's development from the movie.

"As a content product, the film can further promote emotional integration between Hong Kong and mainland compatriots in the future and help Hong Kong residents better understand the country," Tin said.

International influence

China's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) supports Hong Kong's development into a hub for art and cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world, Ma said.

"This is the country's positive response to the current needs of Hong Kong's cultural development," Ma said, adding that it will help Hong Kong give full play to the unique advantages of the "one country, two systems" principle and continue to promote cultural exchanges between Hong Kong and the mainland.

Close in terms of language, culture and customs, the cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area enjoy the regional advantage of integration and development of the film industry.

With the continuous development of the area, culture has been regarded as one of the keys to promoting overall development.

Hence, the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area proposes to fully leverage the strengths and expertise of Hong Kong talents in the film and television industries, promote cooperation among the industries in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao, strengthen film investment and cooperation and exchanges among talents, and support Hong Kong in its development into an exposition hub for television and film.

In 2022, for the first time, the performers' training class of Hong Kong's Television Broadcasts Limited, which has trained many famous actors and actresses, opened to applicants from both Hong Kong and the mainland.

As a former student of the training class, Yam thinks that training film talents is essential for the healthy development of China's film industry.

"I believe that with increasing exchanges and cooperation between film and television talents from Hong Kong and the mainland, more exquisite artworks will emerge and Chinese films will be able to better compete in the international market," Yam said.