對於兩地，七十年代是充滿動盪和變革。1960年開始的寂靜革命，到1976年達至高峰，由René Lévesque帶領、主張魁北克獨立的的魁北克人黨，進入了省政府，其後不久實施101議案，即法語憲章，奠定了法語為魁北克的官方語言。即是說如一個香港人移居滿地可，並在當地開餐館，他們的招牌都不能用中文字。多年以來法案一直受爭議。民族主義在七十年代勢不可擋，致使加拿大歷史上一件最可恥的事件提早發生，極度侵犯市民人權及自由。激進的分離主義組織魁北克解放陣線（FLQ），綁架了英國駐滿地可貿易專員James Cross，並殺害魁北克勞工部長Pierre Laporte，揭開了魁北克的十月危機，促使總理皮亞杜魯多行使那苛刻又令人反動的戰爭措施法令，部署軍人搜查，剝削公民自由及權益。不用說，十月危機把學生推上街頭，令魁北克及加拿大加添無數的政治顏色。也有人猜測，由於激進的FLQ支持者勢力漸趨衰弱，直接令魁北克人黨崛起。
1997年的亞洲金融危機、美國世貿恐襲、2003年香港的（也是世界的）非典型肺炎危機，加拿大2008年開始的經濟衰退⋯⋯千禧年代給魁北克和香港帶來新的挑戰。2007年，加拿大總理Stephen Harper在眾議院動議，正式承認魁北克是有別於加拿大聯邦的國家，似乎迫使魁北克人以及類魁北克人，重新評估獨立的意義。2014年，魁北克未來聯盟黨魁François Legault，跟加拿大CTV News的電台主持說，他的執政黨政府沒有興趣就主權問題作另一次公投。他繼而推論現在是時候重新認識加拿大。新一代魁北克導演矛盾地拍下一些既個人又外向的作品。丹尼斯維爾諾夫的《理工學院屠殺案》（2009）探索1989年一名仇恨女性的人槍殺學院學生的事件，薩維杜蘭的《殺死我阿媽》（2009），描繪了年輕男同性戀者與母親的愛恨交纏，馬修丹尼斯及西蒙拉華的《革命半途而廢的人終將自掘墳墓》（2016）以激進的筆調描寫中產階級的激進主義。這些電影都普遍地強調魁北克人決不屈從，並承認魁北克是世界的一部份。
To look at them on the surface, Hong Kong and Quebec would seem to have little in common. Asia and Canada couldn’t be more distinct physically, socially and culturally, despite the appearance of Queen Elizabeth II on some coins and notes. Hong Kong and Quebec, however, do have their similarities as cultural and linguistic outliers within a larger state. Where Quebec has been historically vocal and politically active with regards to its nationhood, Hong Kong’s awakening has been more recent as well as more low-key in many ways, including in its cinema.
“Separation” is a word bandied around by Quebec sovereignists with abandon, and it has at various times meant simply greater autonomy or sovereignty association with some degree of federalism for Quebec, at other times it has signalled outright independence. As Canada’s most politically active province, Quebecois, the French majority, never hesitated to be heard when their unique identity was threatened, be it through (often student-led) demonstrations or elections. Whatever the mood of La belle province, like most national cinemas, it was reflected in its art. Beginning in the 1970s, Quebec’s sometimes dueling nature was filtered through the camera lens, sadly most often back only to Quebecois; Canada’s draconian inter-provincial trade rules and mainstream English Canada’s frequent indifference to Quebec (and often itself) didn’t help. Nonetheless the voices were loud and clear, and paralleled the social movements in the province.
It can be argued the modern era that saw a true cementing of Quebecois identity, of nationality, began with the triple whammy of a political gaffe by Charles de Gaulle, global counter-culture movements exemplified in the Haight-Ashbury scene in the United States and May 68 in France, and the Quiet Revolution in Quebec. Not coincidentally Hong Kong was in the grips of one of its most prosperous periods of growth ever — and one of its most politically fraught, with China’s Cultural Revolution trickling down and giving rise to leftist groups dedicated to challenging British rule — sometimes violently.
In 1967, then-French president Charles de Gaulle uttered the infamous phrase, “Vive le Quebec libre,” on a state visit for Expo 67 in Montreal. De Gaulle was lambasted in the Canadian and French media for the breach of protocol, and it sparked a diplomatic tussle between De Gaulle and Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson (current PM Justin Trudeau’s father Pierre was justice minister at the time). For Quebecois it was a vindicating rallying cry for independence from the yoke of Ottawa, or English Canada (heavily associated with the British). With the revolution quietly raging lines were drawn between separatist and federalist.
In both cases, the period was defined by a wholesale shift away from what was to that point the norm: the predominantly Roman Catholic province experienced a rise in secularism and separated the church from education, health and welfare. Hong Kong’s colonial government gave an aggressive boost to public education and its people began the long march to even longer working hours and the prosperity that went with them. The seeds were sown, and as activist and May 68 leader Alain Geismar later pointed out, the French movement succeeded “as a social revolution, not as a political one.” That could be said of the ’60s everywhere, including Hong Kong and Quebec. Trailblazing filmmaker and separatist Claude Jutra reflected on the shifting social landscape in 1971’s My Uncle Antoine. The Christmas set coming-of-age story unfolds during a labour strike, based on the bitter 1949 Asbestos Strike, now widely regarded as a seminal event that led directly to the Quiet Revolution. Though no one realised it at the time, the small traditional mining town in the film was about to see its conservative, Roman Catholic status quo disrupted. My Uncle Antoine is a milestone of Quebecois cinema (in truth, in Canadian cinema, despite the 2016 allegations of paedophilia that saw Jutra’s name stricken from several awards and monuments) and reminded viewers 20 years after the events in the film that Quebec was still confined within a federal system.
For both territories, the 1970s was about turbulence and reform. The Quiet Revolution that began in 1960 reached its zenith when René Lévesque’s pro-sovereignty Parti Québécois came to provincial power in 1976 and soon thereafter enacted Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language, which cemented French as the official language of Quebec. It meant that if a Hongkonger moved to Montreal and opened a restaurant, there could be no Chinese characters on its signage. The bill remained controversial for years. Nationalism took on added fervour in the 70s, peaking early with one of Canada’s most shameful breaches of domestic rights and freedoms in its history. The October Crisis unfolded when radical separatist group Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross and later kidnapped and murdered Quebec Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte, prompting PM Pierre Trudeau to invoke the draconian and reactionary War Measures Act, deploy the military and suspend some civil liberties. Needless to say, October Crisis sent students to the streets and would colour Quebec and Canadian politics in myriad ways; it is speculated that flagging support for the radicalism of the FLQ directly resulted in the rise of the Parti Québécois.
The lingering effects of the 60s and the renewed nationalist vigour — there were soldiers on the streets of Montreal — birthed a rash of groundbreaking independent cinema and the production of some of the best films ever made in Canada. Orderers by My Uncle Antoine cinematographer Michel Brault in 1974, and Quebec indie cinema godfather Jean Pierre Lefebvre’s The Old Country Where Rimbaud Died in 1977. The former docudrama details the ordeal suffered by five civilians during the crisis, which notably had special exemptions in English Canada, and is an indictment of government overreach made current by the passage (and later amendment) of the even more heavy handed Bill C51 in 2015. The latter is a poetic comment on how the legacy of colonialism shades Canada and Quebec’s modern world, laced with uncharacteristic criticism of Quebec’s connection to France and France’s disconnect from it. Both are circumstances Hongkongers will empathise with.
At the same time, reform was the order of the day in Hong Kong as well. It was also the beginning of the end for Hong Kong as a colony. Nonetheless Governor, Murray MacLehose was dedicated to positioning Hong Kong for a bright financial, international future, and did so with more school and social welfare reforms, and perhaps most crucially the foundation of the ICAC, created in the wake of a stream of police corruption scandals. By the same token, the drive to internationalisation put the city at an identity crossroads; the disconnect France had with Quebec was soon to be mirrored by the UK in Hong Kong. The city began an internal debate it would continue to wrestle with it in the coming decades.
By the time the 1980s and 90s rolled around both territories were forging on new paths, putting the upheaval of the 1960s and 70s behind them and embracing the junk bond-mad, “Greed is good,” 1980s. In almost every corner of the developed world wealth was on the rise; economies were booming and excess was de rigueur. But it was here that Quebec and Hong Kong began to diverge in their respective quests for identity. Alongside the Parti Québécois's first election victory in 1976, the 1980 and 1995 referendums are nearly as defining for Quebec nationalism, and perhaps identity, as Hong Kong’s passage from one overlord to another. Both are social, political and economic milestones with long shadows.
It was in the 1980s that Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping also acknowledged Hong Kong’s coming reintegration with the PRC would never happen overnight, and proposed the “one country two systems” policy. Hong Kong’s film industry boomed as well, seeing record number of film productions each year, effectively putting the city on the international film map — including the scores of independent filmmakers who had plenty on their minds with 1997 looming. Hong Kong truly began flexing it semi-autonomous muscles during this period, starting with over a million people loudly showing support for protesting students in Beijing at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The stylish thrillers that were winning cult audiences across Asia and overseas, acclaimed as neo-noir jewels, were increasingly playing the same role as Hollywood noir cinema did in the post-war years: making political comments that could not be spoken overtly.
While Hong Kong was transforming into a Wild West in the waning years of colonialism, Quebec weathered two referendums on separation, both of which ended in defeat. In 1980, Lévesque’s government took the (then) narrow defeat — a 60/40 split between federalism and independence — as a sign that Quebecois weren’t ready to go it alone just yet. Fifteen years later in 1995 that defeat was down to margin of 50.6/49.4, numbers that make Brexit look like a landslide. On screens the 80s started analytically, with Francis Mankiewicz’s allegory for independence, or social stagnation, or class disparity, Good Riddance (1980), and Denys Arcand’s 1982 documentary Comfort and Indifference, which explored the first referendum’s failure, suggesting a complacent “Greed is good” climate carried the day. Arcand dominated the decade, but he himself soon gave way to less charged material. The Decline of the American Empire (1986) and Jesus of Montreal (1989) mirrored average Quebecois’ weariness with politics and keener interest in personal indulgence, sometimes to the detriment of self. The 90s were introspective and searching, and so sovereignist Pierre Falardeau’s October (1994) revisits the October Crisis from the perspective of the working class FLQ cell that carried off the crime, a film that’s a reaction to the booming 80s that only cemented wealth disparity. Theatre director Robert Lepage’s film debut The Confessional (1995) toggles between pre-Quiet Revolution Quebec, City of Alfred Hitchcock’s I Confess (1952), and the modern post-referendum provincial capital, following one man’s search for his roots.
A financial crisis in Asia in 1997, the World Trade Center terrorist attack, Hong Kong (and the world’s) SARS crisis in 2003, a recession in Canada that began in 2008 … The new millennium brought about new challenges for Quebec and Hong Kong. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2007 motion in the House of Commons that officially recognised Quebec as a distinct nation within a united Canada may have compelled Quebecois and Quebecers alike to take a moment to re-evaluate the meaning of independence. In 2014, current Coalition Avenir Quebec premier François Legault told Canadian broadcaster CTV News his CAQ government isn’t interested in another referendum on sovereignty. He theorises it’s time to come to a new understanding with Canada. A new generation of Quebecois directors are paradoxically making more personal and outward looking films. Denis Villeneuve explores a misogynist 1989 mass shooting in Polytechnique (2009), Xavier Dolan’s I Killed My Mother (2009) charts the complex love-hate relationship between a young gay man and his mother, and Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves (2016) by Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie is a radical tract about bourgeois radicalism. There’s a universality to the films that, while by no means signalling Quebecois surrender, acknowledges Quebec is part of the world.
At the same time, Hong Kong finds itself in the quagmire Quebec waded through in the 80s. Ironically, as the Belt and Road brings the PRC ever closer, the discrete Cantonese language is threatened, and the word “separation” can incur the punishing wrath of Beijing, Hongkongers and Hong Kong films are looking inward and asking who they are, what they are and where they belong; in a way picking up the identity and autonomy baton Quebec has set down for a moment. Despite its glitzy, devil-may-care image, Hongkongers react when their autonomy is challenged. Half a million people took to the streets in 2003 when the loathed security bill Article 23 was on the table in Legislative Council. The student-led Umbrella Movement of 2014 saw 100,000 people blocking the crucial commercial districts every day for around 80 nearly three months when election reforms were shot down by Beijing. April and then again in June a controversial extradition bill drew, first, 130,000 then an estimated one million, and then two million to the streets — the largest protest in the SAR since the handover. Alongside the civil action, indie cinema finds itself in the midst of a renaissance, from the angry grassroots anthology Ten Years (2015) to indie stalwart Fruit Chan’s Three Husbands (2018). They might be worlds apart socially and geographically, but Quebec and Hong Kong have never seemed more connected.
(Chinese translated by Kwok Ching Fung)