Feature Articles

Six Days in Hong Kong, Part 3
June 12, 2007
Part three of an essay about my visit to the 28th Hong Kong International Film Festival: Progress Marches Ever On
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Six Days in Hong Kong, Part 2
June 04, 2007
Part two of an essay about my visit to the 28th Hong Kong International Film Festival: The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.
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Six Days in Hong Kong, Part 1
May 22, 2007
My first trip to Hong Kong, armed with a HK Film Festival Press Pass, a camera, and not quite enough changes of clothing, Part One: From Chicago to Hong Kong.
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Chinatown
January 15, 2002
Chinatown: from the 1920s images of dark shadows and oriental mystery, to modern images of triad corruption and, well, oriental mystery, this article examines the history and growth of Chinatowns and their depiction in American and Asian cinema.
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Snakes and Snake Women
October 01, 2001
In American movies, snakes are pretty much used as a standard creepy-crawlie creature to get the girls to scream and the tough guy to protect them. Although they are used in this way in asian cinema as well, there is another application: snakes don't scare women: they are women. And it is the men who had better start running.
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Qin Dynasty
August 01, 2001
The First Emperor. Builder of the Great Wall, seeker of immortality. Under his rule China was united for the first time. He simplified the language and promulgated a legal code. He burned books, especially when still in the hands of burning scholars. A hero of unification, or oppresive tyrant and dictator? Or both?
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Ninja
June 01, 2001
A brief attempt to sort out a sort of history of the Ninja. Beware the beat of the cloth-wrapped feet!
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Triads
March 15, 2001
The term 'Triad' was given by the Hong Kong government to Chinese secret societies based on the triangular symbol which once represented such societies. The symbol is the Chinese character 'Hung,' encased in a triangle, representing the union of heaven, earth, and man. So Triads even today are sometimes referred to as the 'Hung Society' or the 'Heaven and Earth Society.' Get it right, or you'll get beaten roughly with plastic lawn chairs, I've seen it happen. The Triads, and depictions in the movies.
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Christianity in China
January 15, 2001
From Matteo Ricci's visit in 1540 to Media Evangelism's cheap, digital video movies trumpeting the value of accepting Jesus as your personal saviour, this is the story of Christianity in China and how it made its way into Hong Kong cinema.
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Fu Manchu and the Yellow Peril
November 01, 2000
In exploring Asian cultures through cinema, we must occasionally turn away from the cinema of the region and focus instead on the explorations of Asian cultures in Western cinema. These 'western visions' of Asia are at times entertaining, at times fascinating, at times repulsive, and almost always bizarre. They reveal more about Western culture, societal mores, and xenophobia than anything even remotely Asian. The question that must be asked then, is where did these ideas come from, that are portrayed so consistently in Western cinema?
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Ghost Lovers and Fox Spirits
September 01, 2000
For as long as there has been darkness and sounds in the night people have known fear at what lay beyond the light of the campfire. For as long as there has been death, people have wondered what awaits them on the other side. Common beliefs about these things tied communities together, some of it becoming religion, evolving from primitive animism to the most refined of beliefs. Some people have experiences which may in some way confirm their belief, some may call these experiences miracles. The stories are told and re-told, and eventually come together in a great body of work which describes the supernatural beliefs of a people in great detail: where one story may leave out an element, another will certainly include it. Tales are told from one person to another, from father to son, from one village to another. Eventually some of these are written down, and remembered. Most, are forgotten to history forever.
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A Short History of Chinese Opera
July 01, 2000
In 1790, theater companies from all over China arrived in Beijing, to perform for the Qing Emperor Qianlong's birthday. Here begins the history of the various opera forms as we know them today in China...
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The Gods of Gambling
May 01, 2000
It has been said many times that the Chinese are a nation of gamblers. The stereotype is deeply embedded in not only western attitudes toward the Chinese, but in Chinese perception toward themselves. It is supposed to be because of this inclination to gambling that an entire genre of film, unique to the region, has grown around master gamblers.
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Taoist Priests and Hopping Vampires
March 01, 2000
Back in college, I studied Taoism for a while, and even went so far as to carry a translation of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching around in my pocket as if it was an ancient version of Mao's Little Red Book. A small collection of poems which instruct on the best way to lead, and the best way to live. Only a life of deep contemplation and meditation could unlock the secrets of the Tao. I was taught that this was Taoism.
Look, and it can't be seen. Listen, and it can't be heard. Reach, and it can't be grasped.
For some reason, my college course never covered using Feng Shui and chicken blood to kick ass and repel the undead. Too bad, I might have paid more attention. As it is, Lam Ching-Ying taught me everything I need to know.
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