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Hong Kong cinema and national cinema: Coloniser, motherland and self

Chu, Yingchi (2000) Hong Kong cinema and national cinema: Coloniser, motherland and self. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Defining the 'national' status of a country's cinema has been central to historical film texts and debates since the 1980s. This dissertation contemplates the 'national' features of Hong Kong cinema under the British colonial government using Andrew Higson's four approaches to national cinema: the production-centred industry, the exhibition-led market, the creation of film texts and the emergence of critical traditions.

This study has drawn materials from a variety of sources, including historical data on Hong Kong, interviews, newspapers and magazines as well as the films themselves. Using these sources I offer a detailed description and analysis of Hong Kong cinema since the inception of the local film industry in 1913 to the return of the colony to its motherland China in 1997. The study examines these materials with reference to recent studies of national cinemas, and social and cultural theories of the construction of national identity.

Although the Hong Kong film industry was situated in a British colony before 1997, the thesis contends that Hong Kong cinema exhibited many characteristics of a national cinema. This thesis also, however, demonstrates that Hong Kong cinema was a 'national' cinema only in a very incomplete and ambiguous way. I argue that the cinematic construction of Hong Kong's geo-political cultural identity articulates a dual cultural identity for Hong Kong as both Hong Kong and China, which also reflects the status of Hong Kong as a 'quasi-nation', existing in a triangular relationship between the British coloniser, the Chinese motherland and Hong Kong self.

The starting point of the thesis is to develop the argument made in national cinema studies that national identity should not be taken for granted in the cinematic context. It goes on to demonstrate that through different historical periods a country's cinema may change, modify and subvert its geo-politically defined identity. Furthermore, it also demonstrates that, at any given moment, a country's cinema may not necessarily reflect and articulate 'national' characteristics at all levels.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Wright, Tim, O'Regan, Tom and Donald, Stephanie
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