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HONG KONG'S SILENT GOLDEN ERA OF FILMMAKING

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I was raised by Chinese films during Hong Kong filmmaking’s so-called “Golden Age” throughout the 80’s and early 90’s. Although hard to come by in the UK and Canada, my parents latched onto any Hong Kong films they could get their hands on, claiming that they connected them back to their homeland. Growing up abroad, these movies really helped me get in touch with my Chinese roots. In fact, I often bragged to my friends that my Cantonese was a direct result of mimicking the likes of superstars like Leslie Cheung, Chow Yun Fat and Stephen Chow.

It wasn’t until the late 90’s that I started to realize that a lot of my favorite celebrities didn’t quite sound like how they do in the movies. Something was off but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I soon found out (through a media course I attended) that Hong Kong films were notorious for being shot silent, in order to save time and costs. More importantly, they heavily relied on voice actors because the stars themselves were often too busy to commit to a separate studio recording. Interestingly enough, this practice was decades old and no one really seemed to find it weird at the time.

Action stars, like Sammo Hung, for example, frequently used the same voice actors to dub their dialogue for consistency and easier recognition. Imagine then my shock seeing him being interviewed for the first time on Western television during his stint on “Martial Law“! Some of these “authentic” voices were so unrecognizable that even if these stars called me up, I wouldn’t have gotten excited. 

This all came into perspective a few days ago, while I was doing chores at home. Due to my aforementioned nostalgia, I had recently subscribed to a classic Hong Kong movie channel, and the television was playing a film I had never heard of from the 80’s. Without looking at the screen, I recognized the voice actor immediately and gave the movie much more credibility than it actually deserved, thinking it starred one of my idols. When I finally sat down to enjoy the rest of the movie, I was pleasantly surprised by how low-budget and unrecognizable the casting was. The mind really pulls a fast one on you at times…

Thank goodness for the miracle of sync sound and its evolution in local filmmaking.

 

– Chris Ng, Executive Director

I was raised by Chinese films during Hong Kong filmmaking’s so-called “Golden Age” throughout the 80’s and early 90’s. Although hard to come by in the UK and Canada, my parents latched onto any Hong Kong films they could get their hands on, claiming that they connected them back to their homeland. Growing up abroad, these movies really helped me get in touch with my Chinese roots. In fact, I often bragged to my friends that my Cantonese was a direct result of mimicking the likes of superstars like Leslie Cheung, Chow Yun Fat and Stephen Chow.

It wasn’t until the late 90’s that I started to realize that a lot of my favorite celebrities didn’t quite sound like how they do in the movies. Something was off but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I soon found out (through a media course I attended) that Hong Kong films were notorious for being shot silent, in order to save time and costs. More importantly, they heavily relied on voice actors because the stars themselves were often too busy to commit to a separate studio recording. Interestingly enough, this practice was decades old and no one really seemed to find it weird at the time.

Action stars, like Sammo Hung, for example, frequently used the same voice actors to dub their dialogue for consistency and easier recognition. Imagine then my shock seeing him being interviewed for the first time on Western television during his stint on “Martial Law“! Some of these “authentic” voices were so unrecognizable that even if these stars called me up, I wouldn’t have gotten excited. 

This all came into perspective a few days ago, while I was doing chores at home. Due to my aforementioned nostalgia, I had recently subscribed to a classic Hong Kong movie channel, and the television was playing a film I had never heard of from the 80’s. Without looking at the screen, I recognized the voice actor immediately and gave the movie much more credibility than it actually deserved, thinking it starred one of my idols. When I finally sat down to enjoy the rest of the movie, I was pleasantly surprised by how low-budget and unrecognizable the casting was. The mind really pulls a fast one on you at times…

Thank goodness for the miracle of sync sound and its evolution in local filmmaking.

 

– Chris Ng, Executive Director

IAFT Cebu

IAFT Cebu

IAFT Cebu, Philippines is a film school that delivers an educational experience that reflects Hollywood roots and traditions. Founded in 2004, IAFT Cebu offers Certificate and Diploma programs in film , acting and 3D animation. Located in: One Hollywood Blvd
, Bigfoot I.T. and Media Park, Lapu-lapu City, Cebu, Philippines. Email: cebu-admissions@iaft.net, Contact Numbers: Globe/Viber: +63-917-314-3456 Smart: +63-947-991-9659 Phone: +63-32-495-2111