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Despair and hope: cinematic identity in Hong Kong of the 2000s

Joseph Tse-Hei Lee (Department of History, Pace University, New York, New York, USA)

Social Transformations in Chinese Societies

ISSN: 1871-2673

Article publication date: 5 September 2017




The goal of this article is to examine the current trends of political cinema in postcolonial Hong Kong. Many leaders of the Hong Kong mainstream cinema have accepted the Chinese authoritarian rule as a precondition for expanding into the ever-expanding Mainland film market, but a handful of conscientious filmmakers choose to make political cinema under the shadow of a wealthy and descendant industry, expressing their desire for democracy and justice and critiquing the unequal power relations between Hong Kong and China.


This paper consults relevant documentary materials and cinematic texts to contextualize the latest development of political cinema in Hong Kong. It presents an in-depth analysis of the works of two local independent filmmakers Herman Yau and Vincent Chui.


This study reveals a glimpse of hope in the current films of Herman Yau and Vincent Chui, which suggests that a reconfiguration of local identity and communal relationship may turn around the collective despair caused by the oppressive measures of the Chinese authoritarian state and the end of the Umbrella Movement in late 2014.

Research limitations/implications

Despite the small sample size, this paper highlights the rise of cinematic localism through a closer look at the works of Hong Kong independent filmmakers.

Practical implications

This study reveals an ambivalent mentality in the Hong Kong film industry where critical filmmakers strive to assert their creativity and agency against the externally imposed Chinese hegemonic power.


This investigation is an original scholarly study of film and politics in postcolonial Hong Kong.



Lee, J.T.-H. (2017), "Despair and hope: cinematic identity in Hong Kong of the 2000s", Social Transformations in Chinese Societies, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 173-188.



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