Transcending Space and Time – Early Cinematic Experience of Hong Kong
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Since the birth of film in the late 19th Century, moving images have undergone over 100 years of development. Thanks to early documentary makers, we can learn about more than a century of history and social changes through a variety of moving images today. The beginnings of Hong Kong cinema stem from documentary-type visual recordings, with the first travelogues, newsreels and documentaries made by Westerners all playing an important part in the initial development of Hong Kong’s film industry.

Due to wars, cultural upheaval, as well as the fact that Hong Kong’s climate is unsuitable for film storage, the majority of pre-World War II locally made recordings have been damaged or lost in the absence of preservation. Such documentaries, which have been collected from all over the world with considerable effort, are a visual treasure trove of our city’s bygone landscapes and countless tales.

When the Edison Company sent its staff from America to China to screen The Edison Shorts (1898), they took the opportunity to record some footage abroad. Meanwhile, Charles Gilbert made a stop in China during a cruise around the world between 1928 and 1930 – he captured his own travels on film and also purchased recordings made by others along the way, ultimately editing them into a collection of short clips.

Pre-war Images of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Sceneries (both taken in the 1930s), donated by Ms. Dolores Wang, are copies which her father risked his life to save while working at a film developing company during the Japanese Occupation. He hid them at the bottom of a well so that they could escape the fate of being burned by the military. In addition, Michael Rogge, a Dutchman who worked in Hong Kong between 1949 and 1954, filmed more than 200 minutes of documentary footage during his sojourn in our city. Much of the landscape and public sentiment in post-war Hong Kong are preserved in his short films, such as Sunrise (1952) and Coronation Festivities (1953).

From these early moving images, audiences can revisit various aspects of historic Hong Kong, such as architecture, streets, people’s ways of life, transportation, as well as fashion. The footage also allows us to better understand the social conditions of different time periods, giving us a retrospective of a century of change.


  • Film still of Street Scene in Hong Kong (1898) (1)

  • Film still of Charles Gilbert Collection: Hong Kong, Shanghai, B...

  • Film still of Hong Kong Sceneries (1930s) (1)

  • Film still of Sunrise (1952)


  • Early Motion Pictures of Hong Kong