Changes Manifest: Time, Memory, and a Changing Hong Kong


Author: Emma Tipson, University of Toronto, Canada
Published: January 2016

Citation: Tipson, E. (2016). Changes Manifest: Time, Memory, and a Changing Hong Kong. IAFOR Journal of Asian Studies, 2(1).


Ann Hui’s A Simple Life (2011), the story of a caretaker’s relationship to her middle class employers, in the director’s hands, becomes an allegory for a changing society. Hong Kong, fifteen years after the return to the mainland, continues to have an uneasy relationship with increasing political and cultural Sino-centrism; a dis-ease which is manifest in the aging character Ah-Tao, a figure whose struggles to preserve a localized Hong Kong culture are compounded by a stroke. Contrasting Ah Tao is the figure of Roger, played by Hong Kong cinema stalwart Andy Lau, whose job as a film producer, requires him to accept and accede to the demands of mainland financiers. Through Hui’s mise-en-scene the director questions the cost of such acquiescence and regularly reminds the viewers, through the use of subtle inside jokes, humour and sundry cultural texts, of the former importance of Hong Kong local cinema and of its recent decline in autonomy. This paper examines the film as an allegory of change, anxiety and rupture to both Hong Kong and the contemporary Hong Kong film industry, contrasting the work to the director’s pre-handover texts.


Hong Kong, nationalism, transnationalism, localism, peripheralization