Dr Karen Fang, Associate Professor of Department of English, University of Houston, was invited by the Centre for Cinema Studies of Lingnan University to share her insights on cinema and the Hong Kong police on 12 December.
Despite its divisive methodologies, scholarship on Hong Kong cinema often treats film as either a transparent window onto the society that makes and consumes it, or as an artistic and economic product defined by the various genres, individuals, and industrial circumstances that also shape film production. Dr Fang pointed out that while the latter approach has persuasively moved beyond a narrow allegorical interpretation of Hong Kong crime films in the midst of reunification, it has also overlooked an uncanny similarity between cinema and Hong Kong society that occurs in its police films and cop characters.
From the mid-1970s — a transformative era in local policing as well as local film — cinema and other moving image media have played an important role in the shaping and maintaining of local police authority. Documenting this history, Dr Fang concluded, does not only invite a new way of thinking about Hong Kong film, its most exportable genres, and the critical trends that have dominated western scholarship on the cinema. Equally — if not more — important, it also demonstrates the surprising role that popular entertainment exerts in the construction of police legitimacy in Hong Kong.
Dr Karen Fang is the author of John Woo’s “A Better Tomorrow” (Hong Kong University Press, 2004), and is currently at work on a book about surveillance and Hong Kong film.