Reconsidering the Art of Hong Kong Political Cinema: The Poetics and Activism in the Post-Umbrella-Revolution Films


Hong Kong has recently come to prominence on the world stage once again in the wake of the 2019 Anti-extradition Protests. In fact, prior to these series of world-renowned Anti-extradition social movements, Hong Kong activists and citizens have strived for the universal suffrage, autonomy, and democracy of Hong Kong during the previous 2014 Umbrella Revolution. Some of the Hong Kong feature films made after this – such as Ten Years (2015), Trivisa (2016), The Mobfathers (2016), and Weeds on Fire (2016) – have marked the advent of Hong Kong post-Umbrella-Revolution cinema (Chang 2017; Tam 2017). To be specific, the Hong Kong post-Umbrella-Revolution films address political implications in response to the socio-political vicissitudes in the post-Handover Hong Kong, particularly referring to the conditions of the post-Umbrella-Revolution era. On the other hand, in terms of the analytic mode of Chinese-language cinema, the socio-cultural approach has been widely employed in Chinese-language film studies due to the particular socio-political conditions in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan respectively. As such, the analytic mode from a poetic and filmic aesthetic perspective has received little attention in the Chinese-language film studies in general (Bettinson 2016). Given the aforementioned research gap, this paper hence aims to reconsider the art of Hong Kong political cinema through the recent two post-Umbrella-Revolution films from a poetic and filmic aesthetic perspective, but not excluding socio-cultural concerns as Gary Bettinson (2016) suggests ‘culturalism and poetics are not mutually exclusive paradigms’ (p. 2). By analyzing the aesthetic strategies including the mixed usage of documentary footages of social protests as well as the archival images of historical incidents in Rita Hui’s Pseudo Secular (2016) and Derek Chiu’s No.1 Chung Ying Street (2018), this paper aims to examine how political activism can be reflected on and manifested through the poetics of moving images vis-à-vis the changing political dynamics in the Post-Umbrella-Revolution Hong Kong films. In doing so, this paper attempts to provide a new approach to examine contemporary Hong Kong political cinema by combining the focus on poetics and filmic aesthetics as well as the consideration into wider socio-cultural realms.