Historical Dictionary of Hong Kong Cinema

Filmmakers and film fans interested in more than a century of Asian cinema can find what they’re looking for in this new reference book. Lisa Stokes, a humanities and film professor who also wrote “City on Fire: Hong Kong Cinema,” includes enough background information to educate newcomers, while also adding plenty of scholarly insight to enlighten devoted film buffs, industry professionals, and even Hong Kong filmmakers.

This extensive reference begins with a chronology that traces the area’s history back to its 1841 occupation by the British to the 2005 Hong Kong Entertainment Expo, which brought together eight creative events including the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Hong Kong Film Awards. A fascinating introduction follows the chronology, in which the movers and shakers in Asian cinema are highlighted, in addition to economic, social, and political factors that influenced filmmaking there over the years.

The bulk of the book, of course, is the dictionary itself, which describes as well as defines the directors, actors, writers, films, production companies, genres, and other significant people, places, and things that surround this niche market. For example, let’s say a reader wants to learn more about filmmaker Stephen Chiau, whose recent film Kung Fu Hustle broke box-office records in Hong Kong and enjoyed critical and economic success in the United States. Besides brief mentions in the front matter, his listing under “Chiau” provides his name in various languages, birth date, personal and professional background, a listing of his awards, partial listing of numerous television and film credits, descriptions of his acting/directing style, and insider information about his two big international hits Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle.

Readers also learn that he is called “The Chinese Jim Carrey” because of his slapstick and pratfalls. Boldfaced items listed under each dictionary entry (in the case of Stephen Chiau: Tony Leung-wai, Danny Lee, television, Golden Horse Awards, Michael Hui, Ng Man-tat, kung fu, martial arts, and Hong Kong Film Awards) represent cross-references with their own listings.

In the center of the book, a brief section is included with photographs of films and filmmakers cited in the text. “Historical Dictionary of Hong Kong Cinema” concludes with a bibliography that lists online, magazine, journal, and book sources used in compiling the text.

Stokes writes in the preface that her goal is to provide “a comprehensive and detailed overview of the immense contribution of Hong Kong to film culture.” She surely succeeds in this endeavor, as the book will serve fans, filmmakers, and scholars ready to delve into the intricacies and peculiarities of this unique cinematic style.