Every Westerner who has become a fan of Hong Kong film has had their own path that they followed to get there. It could have been a friend who lent them a video with an admonishment that "you have to see this" or a late night martial arts movie on some TV channel or simply an interest in exploring beyond the mainstream of Hollywood. Back in the 1990's before the Internet it was a nearly impossible for people in the West to learn about Hong Kong cinema. Most people including myself had no idea that Hong Kong even had a film industry. But once I did and realized how much I loved these movies living in NYC made it much easier. There were theaters in Chinatown that showed movies all the time (now all gone) and many rental video tape stores in Chinatown as well (again all gone).
But what became an obsession for a number of years all began innocently enough walking down 12th street in Manhattan on a chilly December day when I passed Cinema Village. In the window I noticed a bright colorful breathtaking poster of an ambiguously undefined sexual character in robes glaring down at me. My curiosity was piqued and I picked up the flyer and decided to go see something. The poster was of course of Brigitte Lin in her role as Asia the Invincible in The East is Red. I was not surprisingly blown away. I had never seen anything like it before and followed that up with The Heroic Trio and Peking Opera Blues. By the end of this mini-festival I had signed up into the magical world of Hong Kong film.
Cinema Village was way ahead of their time and had a Hong Kong festival for a few years. In those days it was actually fairly easy to throw a festival together and obtain prints because there were two distributors of Hong Kong films out in California. They now are gone as well. I think it was a year or perhaps two after Super Woman of Hong Kong Cinema that they put together a festival featuring the films of Michelle Yeoh and she appeared for one night to promote Stuntwoman.
It was a fun fabulous festival with all of her action classics up to that point. I even spent the $20 to see her! But looking at the flyer now I noticed that it was the princely sum of $8 to see a double feature. The good old days. So my love for Hong Kong film began and this lead eventually to me putting up a website because at that time I was able to access HK films that few people outside of NYC could and I thought it was important to write about these amazing films. And that led in a roundabout way to me getting involved with Subway Cinema and The New York Asian Film Festival. All great things and all because I decided to turn down 12th street that day rather than go up to 14th as I usually did.