In Defense of Hong Kong:
The Critical Reception of Milkyway Image Films

By Yi Sun

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 30, no.2  (Fall 2018), pp. 56-86

This essay examines the critical reception of Hong Kong-based film production company Milkyway Image’s films in Hong Kong against the background of China’s takeover of Hong Kong and assimilation of Hong Kong’s film industry and culture. It demonstrates that local cultural institutions and communities have played a vital role in promoting Milkyway films and, more important, in defining a “new Hong Kong cinema”, which was ultimately characterized by cultural autonomy, an extension of the political democracy Hong Kong has been fighting for. When local cinema faced threats of sociopolitical change, economic crisis, and industry downturn, existing cultural institutions and communities retooled themselves to mobilize resources and new ones came into existence to fill gaps, and these cultural bodies created and provided platforms for local film companies and their work. Local critics’ reception and interpretation of Milkyway films were intentional and teleological. The discourse about Milkyway and their output in their home territory was deliberately politicized. It was shaped as part of a resistance movement against China’s cultural renationalization and the ideological homogenization of Hong Kong.