Post-2019 Hong Kong Cinema: Paradox and Polarization–cfp

Call for Papers for Journal of Chinese Cinemas
Special Issue: “Post-2019 Hong Kong Cinema: Paradox and Polarization”
Guest Editors: Emilie Choi (CityU) and Kristof Van den Troost (CUHK)

The consecutive months of protest in Hong Kong in 2019 were one of the global media events of the year, putting the city back in the spotlight in a way last seen in the run up to the 1997 Handover, when the former British colony became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. After years of seeing the erosion of the local autonomy and democratic participation promised under the One Country Two Systems arrangement, the 2019 protests were a desperate attempt to fight for these values following the failure of the 2014 Umbrella Movement. Even if these events were not enough in themselves to cause a broader rethinking of Hong Kong culture and identity, then certainly the introduction of the National Security Law in 2020 has guaranteed that Hong Kong has entered a “new era”.

In this special issue for the Journal of Chinese Cinemas, we propose to look at the paradigm shift in Hong Kong cinema since 2019, especially in the areas of media ecology, creative adaptation, and film circulation. In some ways, these changes are a mere intensification of pre-2019 trends: while (predominantly) older and more established Hong Kong directors have helmed “main melody” (zhuxuanlü) blockbusters in mainland China, younger filmmakers have received international attention for their assertively local independent documentaries and fiction films. The 2021 revision of local film censorship legislation alongside a broader ongoing crackdown on the press and civil society have however introduced a new reality, with repercussions for all Hong Kong filmmakers and viewers, especially those focused on the Hong Kong local. As filmmakers have seen their works subjected to censorship, several have chosen to forego the local market, releasing their films overseas, often to considerable success. Some have joined the wave of people leaving the city but remain committed to making films and organizing overseas film festivals as part of the Hong Kong diaspora. Others remain in Hong Kong and often face difficult choices: whether to avoid “sensitive” topics in their films, make a stand for artistic freedom, or try to find new ways of getting by. Further complicating the picture is the remarkable commercial and critical success of local films in recent months, sparking hope once more for a rebirth of local cinema.

With the COVID-19 pandemic closing local theatres and forcing the film industry to halt production for long stretches of time over the past few years, many of these changes (such as the impact of the new censorship rules) are still playing out. Although the situation remains in flux and a new status quo is still some way off, we believe it is important to document the current moment with its combination of despair and hope-against-the-odds that also characterized the 2019 protests themselves. To this end, we invite submissions on, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • How do we situate current Hong Kong cinema in a wider media ecology characterized by a new technoculture?
  • How does Hong Kong cinema interact with the new socio-political conditions in areas such as urban politics and identity formation?
  • How are the historical practices and narratives of Hong Kong cinema being shaped by the new environment, for instance in the use of allegory, or in the reinvention of historical practices?
  • How does censorship as an institutional force influence Hong Kong cinema?
  • How do the sectors of commercial film and independent film negotiate with each other?
  • How do film festivals and other new forms of circulation serve as sites of mobilization?

If interested, please send an abstract of no more than 400 words to Emilie Choi (City University of Hong Kong) and Kristof Van den Troost (Chinese University of Hong Kong) at by March 3, 2023. Authors whose abstract is selected will be notified by March 17, 2023. Full manuscripts of 6,000 to 8,000 words will be due on July 31, 2023.

Posted by: Kristof Van den Troost

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