A while back, a fellow walked into a video rental place to ask for Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. This in itself was not unusual, but what made the inquiry so memorable for me is that he asked, “Do you have that new movie, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guacamole Bay?” This question has very little to do with what I’m about to discuss, but since that fellow made my day in such a hilarious fashion, I thought I would dedicate this blog entry to him…whoever he is.
At the Ye Olde DVD Shoppe for Chinese people, a question often comes up that is not heard in other DVD outlets: “Do you have Such-and-Such Chinese Movie in Cantonese yet?” I should point out that these folks are inquiring about films made in Hong Kong, not Mainland Chinese films.
This question may seem odd to those of you who don’t normally seek out HK films on DVD. It’s not so odd when you consider that (for some reason that I have yet to unearth) HK films typically see sooner release under Mainland distribution than they do in Hong Kong. The most widely distributed editions in the Mainland are dubbed in Mandarin regardless of the original language, thus the question from Cantonese speakers about a Cantonese edition.
What’s most striking about such requests is how passionate they can be. Some walk away disappointed when only a Mandarin dub is available but others get quite indignant at the idea of a non-Cantonese edition of a Hong Kong film–or at least the suggestion that they buy the Mandarin version instead of the HK edition.
To say that language is important is a bit of an understatement. While it is the source cultural diversity, it is also a divisive issue that inflames people’s passions. And this is just a DVD we’re talking about here, never mind national pride.
While the Chinese government is doing its utmost to ensure that future generations speak the official tongue and write in Simplified form, the deep roots of Cantonese look as though they’re going to hold firmly for a while yet.
I just hope the DVD shopkeepers get those Cantonese releases in soon…they’ve got a crowd waiting.