Title: Durian Durian
Director: Fruit Chan
Durian Durian is Fruit Chan’s first movie in the Prostitute trilogy he published in the early 2000s, the first and final installments entitled Hollywood Hong Kong and Public Toilet respectively. The movie itself has received a lot of praise from critics for its depiction of everyday living for many native Hong Kongers and immigrants to Hong Kong, in addition to capturing the sense of alienation in the city. The film follows two characters: the first is a young girl named Fan who has just immigrated to Hong Kong with her family; the second is a prostitute by the name of Yan who has also arrived to Hong Kong from Mainland China. The film’s namesake—the durian fruit—comes into play about half way into the film when a passerby attacks Yan’s pimp. In a documentary-esque style, the camera follows both girls in their time in Hong Kong and afterwards, when they return to the mainland.
What makes the movie so riveting is the premise of the film itself: the migration of Mainland Chinese to Hong Kong. If we took a step back to look at the significance of this—that, traditionally, migration occurs from places of low economy to places of high economy—we are left confused. In terms of the colonized/ colonizer dynamic, migration usually occurs from the subaltern (colonies) to the ruler (the colonizer). Essentially, Hong Kong is the Chinese dream much like the Untied States is the dream of many citizens of foreign nations. For the Chinese, Hong Kong means watching movies, it means glamour, it means being rich; such is not usually the true story however. Akbar Abbas states, “the colonial state [of Hong Kong], while politically subordinate, is…not a dependent subaltern position but is in fact more advanced than the colonizing state” (15). As such, the movie begs the question: how then do we reconcile Hong Kong’s relationship with Mainland China—especially if Mainland China is supposed to be viewed as the colonizer and Hong Kong the colony? This reversal of roles is simply another symptom of Hong Kong’s identity.
The film credits notify us that the movie itself is “interpreted by non-professional actors.” Earlier, I stated that the Hong Kong film industry was worth studying because of its ability to include multiple voices in the construction of the story. The use of non-professional actors, I believe, is what 1) makes that movie so powerful and 2) renders opaque themes such as alienation, hope and poverty transparent for the audience. The actors’ interpretations of their characters and the situation acts as validation of the film as allegory in Hong Kong—if the people are involved in the interpretive process, does it not make the movie worthy of deeper analysis?