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Hong Kong New Wave

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Title: Hong Kong New Wave  
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Subject: Cinema of Hong Kong, Australian New Wave, French New Wave, Dennis Yu, Bluebird Film Company
Collection: Cinema of Hong Kong, Movements in Cinema, New Wave in Cinema
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Hong Kong New Wave

Ann Hui was among the Hong Kong New Wave

The Hong Kong New Wave was a blanket term applied to a number of young, groundbreaking Hong Kong filmmakers of the late 1970s and 1980s, many trained in overseas film programs and with experience in the territory's thriving television drama scene. Among the most notable members are Tsui Hark, Ann Hui, Patrick Tam, Yim Ho, and Allen Fong.

The New Wave was a major factor in the creation of a cinema with a contemporary Hong Kong identity and in the Cantonese dialect of most residents - between World War II and the '70s, the industry had been led by transplanted mainland Chinese filmmakers who continued the traditions they brought with them, largely in Mandarin dialect films.

New Wavers were technically audacious compared with the mainstream Hong Kong cinema of the time. They furthered the use of location shooting and sync sound recording and explored a grittier, rougher look and feel. The vivid use, in Hong Kong film since then, of authentic locations in the bustling, cramped urban space is one of their legacies.

The New Wave filmmakers were particularly given to revisionist explorations of popular genres, like the thriller (Hui's 1979 The Secret, Tam's 1981 Love Massacre), martial arts (Tsui's 1979 The Butterfly Murders, Tam's 1980 The Sword) and crime (Alex Cheung's 1979 Cops and Robbers, Yim's 1980 The Happenings). The latter category was particularly friendly to their experiments with realism, and their tactic of wrapping social commentary in genre trappings.

But the New Wave also produced personal dramas about relationships, domesticity and family (Fong's 1981 Father and Son, Yim's 1984 Homecoming) and hard-hitting political comment - Hui's 1982 Boat People presented a brutal portrait of life in communist Vietnam but was widely viewed as an allegory of Hong Kong's anxieties regarding communist China (Teo, 1997). Ng's 1982 Once Upon A Rainbow explored the theme of youth and the ambitions of gaining fame, with references to the undertones of pop culture (such as the use of narcotics, street violence, relationships, nightlife, and the hardships of surviving in an "on-the-fringes" environment of the entertainment world) as integral parts, and was distinctive in style despite casting a completely fresh group of stars that were considered new to the film industry at the time (Cheuk, 2008). Her film was instrumental in launching the careers of several successful internationally renowned Hong Kong stars, such as Andy Lau, Annabelle Louie 雷安娜, and Eric Tsang.

The New Wave helped carve out a small niche for art films in Hong Kong's populist cinema, although most were absorbed into the mainstream to one extent or another (Bordwell, 2000).

Major figures


  • Bordwell, David. Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-674-00214-8
  • Teo, Stephen. Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions. London: British Film Institute, 1997. ISBN 0-85170-514-6
  • Cheuk, Pak Tong. Hong Kong New Wave Cinema (1978–2000). Bristol: Intellect, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84150-148-2
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