After the End: Hong Kong Culture after 1997

After the End: Hong Kong Culture after 1997

"Little Cheung" directed by Fruit Chan

May 25-26, 2001, Royce 306

I. Conference Description

This conference is aimed at launching a Hong Kong cultural studies forum in the United States by gathering together leading scholars in the humanities and social sciences working on Hong Kong culture from Hong Kong, the United States, and the United Kingdom. It will bring together scholars working in the areas of Hong Kong cinema, literature, and art to explore the myriad dimensions of Hong Kong culture after 1997. The conference will attempt to theorize and substantiate the "after" by not only asking the question of what comes after 1997 and why culture takes a certain turn, but also asking what is at stake in using 1997 as the temporal demarcating line. Theorizing the after is to theorize what the word "after" entails in all its senses: after the turnover, after the apex of a certain kind of passion, after international attention, after the obsession with cultural identity, etc., while simultaneously deconstructing the temporality of the "after." What is the complex of sentiments that make up the post-1997 affectivity as such in culture and society? What comes after, in short, the so-called "end" of Hong Kong as we knew it?

Hong Kong cultural studies, sometimes dubbed "Hongkongology," had come into existence relatively late in the years between the signing of the Joint Declaration in 1984 and the 1997 retrocession to China. The looming threat of China's "takeover" of Hong Kong in these years had produced a great sense of urgency among the local cultural workers that "Hong Kong" as such was to be no more and had to be preserved with all one's might. It was not so much a collective identity crisis as a collective search for a unique Hong Kong identity which, in its distinctiveness from the identities of China per se, would constitute the grounds of resistance to China's hegemony. The urgency was expressed in all cultural products in cinema, art, literature, and especially in cultural criticism. The deep political significance of 1997 thus also helped garner international attention on Hong Kong culture as such being constructed as an entity in and of itself with its own particular identity. But as 1997 came and went, the legitimacy and visibility of Hong Kong cultural studies are threatened as the anticipated crackdown by the Chinese government has not happened. Does this mean that Hong Kong cultural studies as an area of scholarly inquiry will have to come to a stop? In view of vibrant academic and other publications in this area in Hong Kong today, this conference hopes to illuminate the cultural politics of local production and global circulation, and how Hong Kong culture as an entity gains or loses currency in the global cultural circuit after 1997. Thus, the conference aims not only to map the local terrain, the subtle changes and transformations in culture, but also the reception of "Hong Kong" as a marketable cultural sign in the global context.

Supported by funds from:

- Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office
- University of California Humanities Research Institute
- Office of the Dean of Humanities
- Comparative and Interdisciplinary Research on Asia UCLA
- Asia-Pacific Institute, UCLA
- Center for East Asian Studies, UCLA
- Center for Chinese Studies, UCLA

II. Conference Participants

Professor Ackar Abbas, "After 1997; or 'What do we do now, now that we're happy?'"

Professor Allen Chun, "Hong Kong 'Identity' After the End of History"

Professor David Eng, "Queer Diasporas/Psychic Diasporas: Space and the World of Wong Kar-Wai"

Dr. Helen Leung, "A Time To Dance: Stanley Kwan1s Queer Fable of 1997 Past"

Professor Ping-kwan Leung, "Hong Kong Cultural Nationalism and its Ambiguous Links to China's Past"

Professor Kwai-Cheung Lo, "Transnational Objects of Fantasy in Post-1997 Hong Kong"

Professor Eric Ma, "LazyMuthaFucka: Emotional Energy and Subcultural Politics"

Professor Laikwan Pang, "Imagining a City: The Changing Discourse of Tourism in the post-1997 Hong Kong"

Mirana May Szeto, "Postmodernity-as-Coloniality: Contesting Cultural Imaginaries of Hong Kong, of whom, by whom, for whom?"

Professor Esther Yau, "Family Exposures: Victim's Secrets"

Kai-Fai Yau, "Molding & Out-Molding/Outmoding Hong Kong: 1997 as a cinematic intervention"

Professor Angelina Yee, "Decolonizing academics: Research culture and academic freedom in postcolonial Hong Kong"

III. Conference Program

Friday, May 25, 2001
Royce 306, UCLA

9:00 Conference registration

9:30 Introductory Remarks

Shu-mei Shih, Director, Comparative and
Interdisciplinary Research on Asia, UCLA

10:00-12:00 Theoretical Considerations after the End

Moderator/discussant: Nick Browne (UCLA)

Allen Chun (Academia Sinica, Taiwan) "Hong Kong ?Identity? after the End of History"

Ackbar Abbas (Hong Kong University) "After 1997; or ?What do we do now, now that we?re happy??"

12:00-1:00 Lunch Break

1:00-2:50 Transnational and Subnational Forms of Culture

Discussant/moderator: Esha De (UCLA)

Kwai-Cheung Lo (Hong Kong Baptist University) "Transnational Objects of Fantasy in Post-1997 Hong Kong"

Eric Ma (Chinese University of Hong Kong) "The Underground Empire of Subcultural Signs"

2:50-3:10 Coffee Break

3:10-5:00 Conditions of Decolonization

Moderator/discussant: Cindy Fan (UCLA)

Angelina Yee (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) "Decolonizing Academics: Research Culture and Academic Freedom in Postcolonial Hong Kong"

Laikwan Pang (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University) "Imagining a City: The Changing Discourse of Tourism in Post-1997 Hong Kong"

Saturday, May 26
Royce 306, UCLA

9:30-12:00 Queering and Permutating Hong Kong

Moderator/.discussant: TBA

Mirana May Szeto (UCLA) "Permutating Hong Kong Subjectivities: Postmodernity as Coloniality"

Helen Leung (University of British Columbia) "A Time to Dance: Stanley Kwan?s Queer Fable of 1997 Past"

David Eng (Columbia University) "Queer Diasporas/Psychic Diasporas: Space and the World of Wong Kar-Wai"

12:00-1:00 Lunch Break

1:00-2:50 Cinematic Interventions

Moderator/discussant: Berenice Reynaud (California Institute of the Arts)

Ka-fai Yau (Stanford University) "Molding and Out-Molding/Outmoding Hong Kong: 1997 as a cinematic intervention"

Esther Yau (Occidental College) "Family Exposures: Victim?s Secrets"

7: 30 Film showing of "Durian, Durian"

James Bridges Theatre, UCLA
Film director Fruit Chan in person Sunday, May 27

7:00 pm Film showings of "Little Cheung" and "Made in Hong Kong" by Fruit Chan

James Bridges Theatre, UCLAConference is free and open to the public. Admission to the film showings is $7 general and $5 for students, seniors, and UCLA Alumni Assocation members with I.D.

IV. Film series: CLA Film and Television Archive, CIRA, ISOP, and UCLA present:

Hong Kong Fruit

In any discussion of the suddenly conspicuous indie film scene in Hong Kong, Fruit Chan looms large. Like the US' own Jim Jarmusch with STRANGER THAN PARADISE (1984), or Steven Soderbergh with SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE (1989), Chan and his 1997 feature MADE IN HONG KONG (shot with non-professional actors on short ends that Chan had saved from previous film jobs) blazed an autonomous trail through Hong Kong1s movie industry that others have quickly followed.

As Hong Kong has made the historic transition from British colony to Chinese SAR (Special Administrative Region), Chan1s elegiac/anarchic remaking of genre cinema has found the era1s indispensable narratives not in the gleaming highrises of the rich and powerful, but in the crowded housing projects and pulsing streets of immigrants and the working classes.

Besides Chan's abovementioned breakthrough film, this series will also present LITTLE CHEUNG, the third entry in the filmmaker's "Hong Kong trilogy" of stories set against the territory's change of sovereign identity, and his latest, acclaimed film, DURIAN DURIAN, an off-beat riff on the adage of "one country, two systems."

Hong Kong Fruit is sponsored by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.

Note: All films in this series are to be confirmed.

Saturday, May 26, 7:30 p.m.

(Liulian Piao Piao)
(Hong Kong/France, 2000)
In person: Fruit Chan

Chan suggests the durian, the Southeast Asian "King of Fruits" renowned for its inimitable spiked shell, creamy inside pulp and supremely pungent odor, as a metaphor for Hong Kong's own insinuating charm. Like its namesake's dual nature, DURIAN DURIAN is divided into two parts. The briskly-paced first section takes place in Hong Kong and unfolds a chance friendship forged in a Mongkok alley between two Mainlanders: Yan, a prostitute with a relentless zeal for making money, and Ah Fan, a young Cantonese girl and illegal immigrant working as a dishwasher. The second, more leisurely section follows Yan upon her return home to wintry northern China. Here, her secretly hard-earned cash buys her status and freedom, yet she feels estranged from her family and strangely nostalgic for the south.

Producer: Doris Yang. Screenplay: Fruit Chan, Sheng Zhimin, Chan Wai Keung. Cinematography: Lam Wah Chuen. Editor: Tin Sam Fat. With: Qin Hailu, Mak Wai Fan, Biao Xiao Ming, Yung Wai Yiu. 35mm, in Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles, 116 min.

Sunday, May 27, 7:00 p.m.
(Xilu Xiang)
(Hong Kong/Japan, 2000)

"Little Cheung" refers both to the rambunctious boy who guides this multi-layered tale about the ties of family and community in the inner city, and to Hong Kong's cinematic lineage?namely opera star Tang Wing Cheung who died in 1997 and the eponymous rascal famously played by Bruce Lee as a child. In a restless summer of delivering takeout food, emotional trials and memorable pranks, Little Cheung cements a bond with his sweet friend Ah Fan (the young girl in DURIAN DURIAN) and his loving grandmother. Director Chan elicits effortless performances from a cast of non-professionals in an earthy, exquisitely observed slice of contemporary Hong Kong. Screenplay: Fruit Chan. Cinematography: Lam Wah Chuen. Editor: Tin Sam Fat. With: Yiu Yuet Ming, Mak Wai Fan, Mak Suet Man, Robby. 35mm, in Cantonese with English subtitles, 118 min.

(Xianggang Zhizao)
(Hong Kong, 1997)

Fruit Chan's nervy de-glorification of the popular "young and dangerous" subgenre of Hong Kong gangster flicks succeeds as a jagged, pre-handover reflection of working-class youth who see no future. Autumn Moon is a petty thug grown up in the projects whose nihilistic menace dissolves in the company of his hulking but harmless sidekick and his hard-nosed but terminally ill girlfriend. A brush with a schoolgirl1s suicide triggers the three teenagers' own fatal crosscurrents of insecurity, rage and desire. In this urban melodrama (which Hong Kong pop phenomenon Andy Lau helped produce), raw grit meets disarming humor meets hyperactivity on the way to the graveyard. Producers: Andy Lau, Doris Yang. Screenplay: Fruit Chan. Cinematography: O Sing Pui, Lam Wah Chuen. Editor: Tin Sam Fat. With: Sam Lee Chan Sam, Wenbers Li Tung Chuen, Neiky Yim Hui Chi, Amy Tam Ka Chuen. 35mm, in Cantonese with English subtitles, 108 min.


Films screen at the James Bridges Theater in Melnitz Hall, located on the northeast corner of the UCLA Westwood campus, near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Hilgard Avenue. Tickets are available at the theater one hour before showtime. Parking is available adjacent to the theater in Lot 3 for $6. For further information, please call (310) 206-FILM, (310) 206-8013, or visit

Published: Monday, October 14, 2002