Distributor:  Bullfrog Films
Length:  51 minutes
Date:  1996
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English; Mandarin
Grade level: College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
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Smack City

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Hong Kong, the drug capital of southeast Asia for the last century.

Smack City

The second program in the series 'The Heroin Wars' examines the 30-year War on Drugs in Hong Kong, which has been the drug capital of southeast Asia for a century, ever since the Chinese ceded it to Britain to harbor the opium fleet. In Hong Kong opium was sold under a government license until the end of World War II, when Britain enforced the UN treaty against narcotics. In the 1960s Hong Kong's suppliers and addicts switched from the relatively innocuous opium to the stronger and more addictive heroin because it was easier to smuggle and quicker to consume.

The film follows the fortunes of the Triad gang, which controlled the selling of heroin on one street corner. Over the years some of the gang evade the police, but others are arrested and jailed. Ah Sing tries to kick the habit but fails, and eventually dies of an overdose.

The film also follows the Hong Kong police as they raid heroin factories and distribution centers in what appears to be a futile struggle, since they seldom reduce the amount of heroin reaching the gangs on the street level.

'Proving, again, that truth is far more intriguing than fiction, The Heroin Wars is documentary film making at its finest, a superb and skillfully told story which ultimately reveals that as long as there are supplies, and drug addicts, there will always be a drug trade. Highly recommended for purchase.' Gerald A. Notaro, University Librarian, University of South Florida MC Journal: the Journal of Academic Media Librarianship

'Essential viewing for anyone interested in the history of the narcotics trade and the war on drugs; highly recommended for academic libraries and world history collections.' Library Journal


Main credits

Cowell, Adrian (cmm)
Cowell, Adrian (Director)
Kirk, Michael (Producer)

Other credits

Camera, Chris Menges, Ned Johnston, George L.Y. Chang; editors, Terry Twigg, Brian Freemantle, Roger James.

Distributor credits

Adrian Cowell with WGBH/Frontline

Adrian Cowell with WGBH/Frontline

Camera: Chris Menges

Docuseek2 subjects

Alcohol, Drugs and Substance Abuse
20th Century
Asian History
Human Rights
International Relations and Geopolitics
Politics and Political Science
Criminal Justice, Law and Legal Studies
United Kingdom
Asian Studies

Distributor subjects

Asian Studies
Developing World
Hong Kong
Human Rights
International Studies
Pacific Studies
Political Science
Social Justice


Hong Kong, drugs, opium, heroin, narcotics, Opium Wars, war on drugs, Boxer rebellion, addiction; "Smack City"; Bullfrog Films

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