The Cartography of Hong Kong Urban Space: Living and Walking in the Cinematic Cityscapes of Fruit Chan and Ann Hui

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2021

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Hong Kong has long been ensnared in the problems of limited housing and soaring land prices, which renders its physical space one of the most visible criteria embodying its social inequalities. Regarding space as an overarching concern andframework, this thesis mainly focuses on the representations and portrayals of Hong Kong’s urban space in Fruit Chan and Ann Hui’s films and further examines how the directors engage with social spaces in reality through depicting various cinematic spaces. All of these films explore the grassroots space of the underprivileged and marginalized people, which constitutes the underside of Hong Kong’s glamorous urban space shaped by economic developments and globalization. Fruit Chan’s Handover Trilogy including Made in Hong Kong (1997), The Longest Summer (1998), Little Cheung (1999), as well as the first two installments of his Prostitute Trilogy, Durian Durian (2000) and Hollywood Hong Kong (2000) hence reflect on how economic, political and social conditions are factored into the uncanny mutations and distortions of varying spaces ranging from public housing estates, cemeteries, streets to squatter villages. Ann Hui’s companion films, The Way We Are (2008) and Night and Fog (2009), offer a detailed characterization of public housing estates and discuss the notion of housing in metropolitan contexts. The two directors deploy and recreate these paradigmatic spaces of Hong Kong as a critique of the history and social hierarchy of Hong Kong, which are intimately involved with the complexity of postcoloniality, neoliberalism, and globalization. Based on theories of spatiality, psychoanalysis, and urban sociology, this thesis argues that these cinematic spaces can be viewed as a site to negotiate with urban planning, spatial practices, transregional and transnational movements. On the one hand, space registers the hierarchical division of the society that renders the underprivileged more vulnerable. On the other hand, connections and a sense of community can also emerge from the space appropriated by its inhabitants. Furthermore, by engaging with border-crossing subjects, these films explore social spaces beyond Hong Kong and provide possibilities of investigating the broader social reality of post-socialist China, destabilizing the static binaries between local and global, periphery and center.

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Zhang, Huiqi (2021). The Cartography of Hong Kong Urban Space: Living and Walking in the Cinematic Cityscapes of Fruit Chan and Ann Hui. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/23198.

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