Hong Kong may be rightly proud of its accomplishments as an economic powerhouse and its history and culture may have many intriguing dodges and folds, but worldwide, Hong Kong is perhaps best known as the home of the kick-em-up kung fu movie.
Hong Kong’s film industry started to produce martial arts movies as early as the 1938s, when the Cantonese language film The Adorned Pavillion included the martial art of wuxia,
which emphasizes chivalrous and philosophical engagement. By the 1970s a Mandarin-based, grittier and more visually dramatic form of “kung fu” replaced it, and with it came astounding global popularity. In 1973 young martial arts movie star Bruce Lee electrified audiences with Enter the Dragon, which was the first ever English language, US-Hong Kong production. (Lee died soon thereafter, unexpectedly and mysteriously.)
Multiply talented Jackie Chan (“actor, action choreographer, filmmaker, comedian, director, producer, martial artist, screenwriter, entrepreneur, singer and stunt performer,” says the entry about Chan on Wikipedia) became the next huge Hong Kong action film star, blending martial arts and comedic timing in films like the 1985 Police Story that delighted both Eastern and Western fans of the genre. Chan’s Hong Kong movies were usually joyful and engaging, toying with the camp that had defined the genre, such as the overused device of the star of the film fending off numerous attackers who come at him one by one. In 2000 Hong Kong (well, actually Taiwan) cinema soared back toward wuxia with Ang Lee’s elegant Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film and became the highest grossing foreign language movie in American cinematic history. ([this link has kung fu fighting and should be just for grown-ups]: Is this scene from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon the best fight scene ever?)
Wikipedia on Hong Kong Action Cinema | A history of Hong Kong Action Cinema | The top 20 Hong Kong Action Movies of all time? (be prepared for the loud music on this one) | “Hong Kong Kung-fu Stars Can’t be Stopped” (Jackie Chan and Jet Li keep going) | Learn Kung Fu for Kids (though you may not want to teach your kids the toe slap kick)
In class we’re going to fight off a hundred attackers with acrobatic kung fu and a smile.