Chinese Film Analysis Essay

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Chinese Film Analysis

The process of studying the cinema often involves watching how various genres can change from one generation to the next, as new ideas are integrated in a variety of different films. One place where this can be seen is within the Hong Kong film industry. Where, it was going through a transformation from the martial arts genre that was established during the 1970's. However, the passing of cultural icon Bruce Lee and the audience placing more of an emphasis on local filmmakers meant that you would see the genre of films change. One film where these changes are obvious is the Boat People (1982). In this cultural masterpiece, director Ann Hui, examines the plight of Vietnamese, in the wake of the 1975 communist take over. Where, the film has been critically acclaimed, as a classic that highlights the various problems faced by the Vietnamese, who immigrated to Hong Kong. ("Boat People") This is significant; because it would show a momentary shift in the film genre away from the martial arts film; to one that is an inward reflection of Hong Kong itself. To fully understand the significance of this film and the impact that it would have upon the Hong Kong film industry requires: examining the historical / social setting, the context of the film and conduct an analytical summary. Together, these different elements will provide the greatest insights, as to how the Boat People made a significant impact on Hong Kong films.

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TOPIC: Essay on Chinese Film Analysis Assignment

The Boat People would represent a shift that would occur in the Hong Kong film industry, as various socially-based films would discuss the different issues that were affecting the city. What happened was the rise of the martial arts films in the 1970's, would bring the Hong Kong film industry to prominence around the world. As Bruce Lee, would become the face a budding new genre of films (the martial arts films). While these films were popular overseas, the Hong Kong audience found them to be a lot of fight scenes, with no real substance. Over the course of time, this would lead to calls from the audience that a new kind of genre needs to be created. At which point, the new cinema of the 1980's would emerge. This where, the films would have deeper plots, in an effort to engage the audience in a unique way. The Boat People was one of the first films to push the envelope of this new genre, by showing: controlled chaos, the human side of war and it discusses the politics surrounding Vietnamese issue. This is significant, because this film would break from the traditional action-based model, to give audiences another way to be entertained and informed at the same time. (Fu 1 -12)

The Context of the Film

The context of the film is showing what life was like through lives of the different characters that represent Vietnamese villagers. The main character of the film is Shiomi Akutagawa. He is a Japanese journalist that goes around the country, covering how happy and content the people are. Where, he had covered the fall of Danang and has returned to see how things have changed three years later. During his travels, he begins to venture outside of villages without government officials, and quickly discovers that another situation exists (people are: poor, desperate and hungry). One of the people he meets is Cam Nuong (who is poor and desperate rural villager), at first Akutagawa is met with caution by Nuong. Over the course of time, he begins to see what is happening through the eyes of the Vietnamese villagers. This is significant, because it would show that the film industry was changing in Hong Kong. Where, the genre has changed from having the outsider visit an area as the great hero, to one that is there to tell a story. The conflict would exist with the distrust between Nuong and Akutagawa. This would follow a similar plot line of the Hong Kong cinema, yet have a unique twist. Then, during the course of the film is when Akutagawa would see things, through the eyes of those who are suffering. In this aspect, the plot line is similar to the Hong Kong films of the past, as it would represent a transition between the outsider physically fighting the system, to one that is asking the audience to think. Where, the genre of the film would borrow certain general characteristics of the Hong Kong film industry, and then augment it with the unique story / genre of the film itself. As result, you see a film that will tell a story (that is loosely based on fact), while at the same time using some themes that are common with Hong Kong films. (Browne 162 -- 178)

An Analytical Summary of the Boat People

Like what was stated previously, the film is based of off the relationship between Akutagawa and Nuong. Where, Akutagawa goes with government minders to see how they have transformed Danang, from a war zone into a prosperous trading city (the New Economic Zone). After going around Danang with various government escorts, Akutagawa believes that the Vietnamese are staging the different events. At which point, he begins to film images that he is not suppose to, of families being forced to go to the New Economic Zone, where everyone seemed so happy. It is at this point, that Akutagawa meets Nuong and quickly discovers that the camp is something similar, to cross between a concentration camp and a prison camp. Where, he follows one prisoner into the camp named Minh. Through a government official, he is given access to the camp and sees the horrors of abuse / death that are occurring. When Minh escapes from the camp and is killed; the Vietnamese are simultaneously arresting Nuong's mother for prostitution. These events change Akutagawa views. Where, he sees Nuong's mother executed and tortured for no reason. To support Nuong and her brother, Akutagawa sells his camera. He then, makes arrangements for them to leave Vietnam. During the escape attempt, Akutagawa is killed by the coast guard. The film ends, by showing Nuong and her brother as the only ones who escaped, on their way to freedom. ("The Boat People")

What the film highlights, is a change in the view of Akutagawa. Where, he goes from a foreign journalist who believes what government officials are telling him, to someone who exposes the lie. Under normal circumstances, he would have reported what he saw of the New Economic Zone in Danang. However, his relationship with Nuong would change these views. Where, he would no longer see the Vietnamese as just another group of people. Instead, he would begin to understand the suffering and hardships that they are enduring under the communist system. This is significant, because it would show similarities and differences with Hong Kong cinema. Where, this would show Akutagawa as someone with no vested interest in what is happening. Once he begins to see the injustice that is occurring, is when he will start to take action, to help those he cares about. In many ways, this is different from the classic Hong Kong martial arts film, because it is showing a real problem that is occurring in the world. Yet, at the same time it is showing an issue that has affected a select group within Hong Kong society. This is similar to other films made earlier than the 1970's, where they would show local genres. For example, the films of the 1930's would show local themes that were relevant to the audience, such as: anti-Japanese films. This is similar to the Boat People, as the themes would show a minority local population being oppressed for no reason. (Browne, 162 -- 178)

The hardship and the underlying brutality of the Vietnamese would radicalize Akutagawa, as he would become close to Nuong and her family. Once her mother was arrested and executed, is when he would completely change and will fight for justice. The way that he chooses to do this, is to help Nuong and her family escape to freedom, by offering them support. It is at this point, that the true brutality of the Vietnamese is highlighted, when Akutagawa is killed trying to help Nuong and her brother escape (with the film showing the two safely escaping). In this aspect, the film is different from the traditional Hong Kong films of the 1970's, by not showing Akutagawa engaging in physical violence. Instead, he chooses civil disobedience as a way to fight the system. This genre is similar to the styles used in the 1970's; with the main character (Akutagawa) facing the consequences of his actions, for help Nuong and her brother escape. In this case, the Hong Kong cinema is borrowing a similar theme from that many martial arts films would use, where they focus on the self less act of chivalry. Throughout the 1960's, this idea… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Chinese Film Analysis" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Chinese Film Analysis.  (2010, June 30).  Retrieved July 31, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Chinese Film Analysis."  30 June 2010.  Web.  31 July 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Chinese Film Analysis."  June 30, 2010.  Accessed July 31, 2021.