While everyone at home is (theoretically) working on assignments, since Tuesday I have seen three films a day. Make no mistake, prospective exchangers, this is still work. We take notes, stay alert, discuss what we’ve seen, negotiate the role of that film in the festival, and then turn around into the cinema again. Inside the cinema, we learn what’s outside it. When you don’t speak the language of a country, you can’t interact with the people, day-to-day, on as engaged a level. That disconnect discourages me from appreciating the personal narrative of strangers. To see, say, a realistic portrayal of a Hong Kong family on screen brings me closer in mind to the Hong Kong family I see on the train. A greater understanding of the people with which you share a space or country (or Special Administrative Region) can only enrich my travel and, with any luck, make me more generous to others and open-minded.
In our talks with film industry professionals, we’ve covered such topics as the disconnect between mainland China and Hong Kong, censorship, film funding, and declining film audiences. With every account, we received a new representation of those problems until one accepts that Hong Kong can only be understood in complexity, not in simple truths. These talks are invaluable and illustrative, yet it continues to be a bizarre experience when, say, anti-mainland sentiment can be seen in HKIFF advertisements which stress that a film is made entirely by Hong Kong people and companies. Try as we might, understanding cultural attitudes or issues cannot be recreated in academia with complete efficiency. Short of living a Hong Kong life, living next to it is the surest path to understanding.
Susan Cilento, Bachelor of Arts (High Achievers) student participating in the “East Asian Film Industry Engagement Project” in April 2017
- Read Susan’s 1st post here