Hong Kong Cinema—From Handicraft to High Tech


From the early twentieth century to the 60s, Hong Kong cinema was born with deficiency, and grew up under unfavourable conditions; a limited and unstable market, restrictions in funding, has taught the filmmakers to work with the bare essentials. It was not until the 70s when the studio system matured, with the consolidation of the overseas market, that the production value of Hong Kong cinema could be raised. It continued on to reap the harvest, both in the box-office and in artistic merits, in the decade from the 80s to early 90s. Such success had brought in new investments and resources to acquire new techniques from outside, and to further develop our local specialties. From a technical standpoint, Hong Kong cinema is on the track to international standards.

We have reasons to take pride in the toils of many decades of low budgeted productions. For many years, Hong Kong cinema has combated the lack of technical assistance with intensive labour. Gradually, it has developed into a tradition of handicraft with the flexibility of swift on the spot thinking. The success of Hong Kong's martial arts films is such an example; through the expertise of the crew, skills of the stunt performers, and versatile action choreography, an unique production mode with a distinguished local flavour has evolved.

Even with the wide application of foreign special visual effects in the 80s and 90s, Hong Kong cinema still retained its popularity here and abroad through its handicraft tradition, with dynamic action and art direction, rather than computer generated effects.

This exhibition attempts to display the progress of Hong Kong cinema from handicraft to modernisation, from intense labour to its blending with new technology, creating a striking Eastern aesthetic.

The re-creation of the set pieces from the martial arts films of the 50s and 60s is our effort to show the spirit of the craftsmen of that era. An interactive game, making use of the Chroma Key technology, is a standard feature for special effects past and present. Together with the multi-media displays in words, sound and images, this exhibition is an entertaining, as well as an educational experience.

As for the results, we still await comments from friends in the industry, the critical and cultural circle, and the audience. I wish to express my appreciation to all the experts and friends who gave their generous assistance, and to co-workers and designers who have worked diligently in putting this exhibition together.

Law Kar