James T. Hong was born in Minnesota, USA in 1970. He studied philosophy at the universities of Minnesota and Illinois. He discontinued his doctoral studies in order to take up a film study course in Los Angeles as well as to gather practical experiences as a cameraman. The move to San Francisco in 1997 marks the beginning of Hong’s activity as an independent film maker and author of experimental films. In the same year, he also founded his own TV and film production company „Zukunftsmusik“ which strives to produce films directed against the triviality and ignorant perception of the contemporary mass media propagated by cinema and television. Hong’s interest in philosophical and social problems is reflected in his film and video works. His intention is to provoke the viewer to think over and to think differently and to juxtapose the viewer’s ready-made opinion with something new. In his works, Hong unmasks America as a pseudo-liberal immigration land and unearths the contradictions within the social order which refers to the successful assimilation of immigrants, and yet comes into focus due to its racist behaviour. This can be seen, for example, in his experimental film „Behold the Asian: How One Becomes What One Is“ (1999/2000) which has been awarded the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Hong’s attitude towards America is ambivalent, the more so as the ABC’s (American Born Chinese) dream-homeland China is no real alternative. This becomes clear in his work “Taipei 101: A Travelogue of Symptoms (Sensitive Version)” (2004) in which Hong pinpoints the outgrowth of the globalisation on the example of the currently highest building in the world. „Taipei 101“ has been shown at many festivals in the USA and Taiwan, and had been accompanied by protests in the past.
In his earlier works, Hong deals with historical revisionism and the misuse of the historical truth, or its reinterpretation through the power authorities. Hong strives to expose the connection between power and truth. In his experimental film “Die Entnazifizierung des MH” (The Denazification of MH, 2006) the director combines the original sound track of Martin Heidegger during his denazification process with images of the famous philosopher’s hut in Schwarzwald. The film hauntingly demonstrates the way Heidegger publicly and strictly according to the rules of hermeneutics talks himself out of his involvement with the Nazi regime. The film has received international recognition at numerous festivals (Rotterdam, Zagreb, Chicago, Basel, San Francisco, and others).
In his current work „731: Two Versions of Hell“ (2007) Hong demonstrates once more the opinion leadership of power structures and shows that historical revisionism has a dangerous accomplice in the medium of film. Hong presents the same historical occurrence from two perspectives by showing the same film material twice (the second time in reverse order).
Both times, the desolate buildings in the Chinese Pingfang where the Japanese Unit 731 was based are to be seen. The two versions tell differing stories about this barren place: according to the official Chinese account, it had been a place for experiments on living bodies of thousands of Chinese people; according to the Japanese account, it was a place for bio-weapons tests. The film is currently being shown with great success at numerous festivals (Chicago, Hong Kong, Split, Busan, Osnabrück, Tel-Aviv, and many others) and has been recently awarded the Best World Documentary Film Award at the International Documentary Film Festival Jihlava, Czech Republic.
During his stay in Berlin James Hong intends to complete the montage of his current documentary film project „New History Zero“. It deals with the involvement of Japan in the Second World War and the to date officially practised historical misrepresentations.
2008 New History Zero (Dokumentarfilm, in Produktion)
2007 This Shall Be a Sign (Experimentalfilm, 32 Min)
731: Two Versions of Hell (Dokumentarfilm, HD,
2006 Die Entnazifizierung des MH (Dokumentarfilm,
16mm, 18 Min)
Suprematist Kapital (Co-Regie: Yin-Ju Chen,
Animation, Video, 5 Min)
The Coldest War – Part 1 (Experimentalfilm, DV,
2005 Total Mobilization (Co-Regie: Yin-Ju Chen,
Kurzfilm, 16mm/DV, 8 Min)
The Form of the God (Experimentalfilm,
16mm/Video, 4 Min)
2004 Taipei 101: A Travelogue of Symptoms
(Dokumentarfilm, DV, 23 Min)
2003 The Spear of Destiny: A Film for Everyone and No
One (Spielfilm, 16mm, 90 Min)
2000 Exhibition: History (Installation)
1999 Decade Null (Experimentalfilm, 16mm, 1 Min)
Behold the Asian: How One
Becomes What One Is (Dokumentarfilm, 16mm,
1998 Condor: A Film from California (Experimentalfilm,
16mm, 7 Min)