Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media


The Gendered Politics of Sex Work in Hong Kong Cinema: Herman Yau and Elsa Chan (Yeeshan)’s Whispers and Moans and True Women for Sale

Gina Marchetti


Abstract: The portrayal of women as prostitutes is common in Hong Kong cinema, and filmmakers have looked at sex work from various perspectives: as a social problem, as an index of women’s economic exploitation more generally, as a way to explore the relationship between economics and sexuality, as a window onto the world of sexual minorities and as erotica. Scriptwriter Elsa Chan, working in conjunction with director Herman Yau, has made two features about women in the Hong Kong sex industry—Whispers and Moans (性工作者十日談, 2007) and True Women for Sale(性工作者2 我不賣身·我賣子宮, 2008)—based on Chan’s anthropological studies of women in the sex industry in Hong Kong. Like their earlier collaboration From the Queen to the Chief Executive (等候董建華發落, 2001), these films look at the “sensational” (youth murders, prostitution) with an eye to understanding and, perhaps, remedying social injustice. In fact, the issue of “justice” and women’s role as exploited victims as well as potential agents of change link Elsa Chan’s scripts to the interests of other women filmmakers currently working in Hong Kong. Whispers and Moans and True Women for Sale offer a critical perspective on the circulation of women across borders and gesture toward a feminist intervention into the shadow economy between transnational capitalism and the socialist marketplace in China.


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