University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

New Angles on Chinese Film History. August 13-15, 2015

August 13, 2015IASEvents, | Conferences4

New Angles on Chinese Film History
An International Conference

Open to the public; no registration required.

Thursday, August 13
Founder’s Room, Northrop

5:15 Welcoming Remarks: Jason McGrath, University of Minnesota

5:30 Roundtable Discussion: The State and Stakes of Chinese Cinemas Studies

Sponsored by the Journal of Chinese Cinemas

Chris Berry, King’s College London
Yingjin Zhang, UC-San Diego
Zhang Zhen, New York University
Xinyu Dong, University of Chicago
Moderator: Song Hwee Lim, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Friday, August 14
Crosby Seminar Room, Northrop

9:00 Light breakfast and coffee

9:30-10:15 Keynote Talk 1: Chris Berry, King’s College London

What (not) to Wear during a Cultural Revolution: Film, Fashion, and Agency in China
co-authored with Shujuan Zhang, University of Minnesota

10:15-12:45 Panel 1: China and the Global Cinematic Idiom

Chair: Xin Yang, Macalester College

Of Wild Roses and Pink Tears: The Afterlife of Lady of the Camellias in Postwar Hong Kong Cinema
Jean Ma, Stanford University
Big Face: The Screen Kiss in Shanghai Cinema of the 1930s
Jessica Ka Yee Chan, University of Richmond
Redrawing The Formation of Movie Star Culture in Shanghai (1930-1937)
Chen Gang, Chinese Agricultural University
Animated History, Plasmatic Reality: China’s Folktale Animation Films from 1941 to 1965
Li Guo, Utah State University
Discussant: Jason McGrath, University of Minnesota

1:00-2:00 Lunch

2:00-4:30 Panel 2: Institutional History and Film Industry Transformations

Chair: Julian Ward, University of Edinburgh

Provincializing Chinese Cinema: Shanghai Films at the Zhenjiang Mass Education Center
Hongwei Thorn Chen, University of Minnesota
Taiwan’s Meteroric Rise as a Film Festival Powerhouse: A Revised Institutional History
James Udden, Gettysburg College
French Producers and the Support of Chinese Art Cinema
Cecile Lagesse, Yale University
Unstable Pixels: Digital Plasmaticness and Semiotic Pluralism in Chinese Independent Animation
Jinying Li, University of Pittsburgh
Discussant: Yingjin Zhang, UC-San Diego

4:30-5:00 Coffee & snacks

5:00 Keynote Talk 2: Zhang Zhen, New York University

From Sidewalk Xianchang to Spectral Realism: Yang Lina’s Beijing and Beyond

Saturday, August 15
1210 Heller Hall

8:30 Light breakfast and coffee

9:00-10:30 Panel 3: Rethinking Film and Media Historiography through Genre, part 1

Chair: Christine Marran, University of Minnesota

Battle over Comedy: Rereading the Hard Film vs. Soft Film Debate in Shanghai Cinema
Xinyu Dong, University of Chicago
A Cinema of Nonbelonging: Rethinking Hong Kong Mandarin Film Musicals of the 1950s (and Beyond)
Tsai Po-Chen, National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan
Space, Scene, and Body Movements: The Construction of the Jianghu Secondary World in Chinese Martial Arts Films of the Shaw Brothers, 1960s-1970s
Liu Shengmei, Peking University

10:30-10:45 Break

10:45-12:30 Panel 3: Rethinking Film and Media Historiography through Genre, part 2

The Secret War: Gender, Code, Media Technology—Chinese Espionage Films during the Second World War
Weihong Bao, UC-Berkeley
Horror, Historiography and the Aesthetic of the Liminal
Xiao Liu, McGill University
Discussant: Chris Berry, Kings College London

12:30-1:30 Lunch

1:30-3:30 Panel 4: Cinema as Historical Conjuncture

Chair: Suvadip Sinha, University of Minnesota

Dire Straits: Shifting Boundaries of “Home” in the Cinematic Representation of 1949
Guo-Juin Hong, Duke University
Film Historiography through the Self-reflexive Screen – When a Star is Reborn
Yiman Wang, UC-Santa Cruz
Negotiating the Ideal Womanhood: Ideological Interventions into the Legend of Mulan in Confucian and Republican China
Zhuoyi Wang, Hamilton College
Discussant: Yomi Braester, University of Washington

3:30-3:45 Coffee & snacks

3:45-5:45 Panel 5: Beyond Mandarin: Dialect and Diasporic Cinemas

Chair: Baryon Tensor Posadas, University of Minnesota

Cantonese Cinema: Industrial Crisis and Reconstruction, 1930-1957
Victor Fan, King’s College London
Singaporean Film as History of the Sinophone: Glen Goei’s Forever Fever and The Blue Mansion
Carolyn FitzGerald, Auburn University
Configuring Translocalism in Taiwanese-dialect Cinema
Wang Chunchi, National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan
Discussant: Song Hwee Lim, Chinese University of Hong Kong

New Angles on Chinese Film History is cosponsored with the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures, the Confucius Institute, the Luce Foundation, the Imagine Fund Special Events Grant, and the Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry & Scholarship Program of the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Bao, Weihong (Columbia University)

Weihong Bao is assistant professor at the Department of Film and Media and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at UC Berkeley. She is the author of Fiery Cinema: The Emergence of an Affective Medium in China, 1915-1945 (University of Minnesota Press, 2015). Her writings appear in such journals as Camera Obscura, New German Critique, Nineteenth Century Theater and Film, Opera Quarterly, The Journal of Chinese Cinemas, The Journal of Modern Chinese Literature, American Anthropologist, and Yingshi wenhua as well as The Blackwell Companion to Chinese Cinema. She serves on the editorial board for Feminist Media History and is co-editor for the “film theory in media history” book series published by Amsterdam University Press.

The Secret War: Gender, Code, Media Technology—Chinese Espionage Films during the Second World War

This paper looks at Chinese espionage films during the Second World War to tackle cultural constructions of secrecy that continue to concern us today. I focus on secrecy as the central trope of information congealing the dynamic relationship between the code, the gendered body, and media technology. To historicize the mutual dependence between secrecy and the two bodily mediums—the human body and media technology, I locate Chinese wartime espionage films in a transnational media culture where a new humanity was entertained around the spy as a new type of person. The secret war, I argue, battles around changing perceptions of gender and humanity entangled with the promise and pitfalls of technologically mediated perception.

Berry, Chris (King’s College London) and Shujuan Zhang (University of Minnesota)

Chris Berry is Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London. In the 1980s, he worked for China Film Import and Export Corporation in Beijing, and his academic research is grounded in work on Chinese cinema and other Chinese screen-based media, as well as neighboring countries. He is especially interested in queer screen cultures in East Asia; mediatized public space in East Asian cities; and national and transnational screen cultures in East Asia. Together with John Erni, Peter Jackson, and Helen Leung, he edits the Queer Asia book series for Hong Kong University Press. Prior to his current appointment, he taught at La Trobe University in Melbourne, The University of California, Berkeley, and Goldsmiths, University of London.

Primary publications include: (with Mary Farquhar) Cinema and the National: China on Screen (Columbia University Press and Hong Kong University Press, 2006); Postsocialist Cinema in Post-Mao China: the Cultural Revolution after the Cultural Revolution (New York: Routledge, 2004); (ed.) Chinese Cinema, 4 vols, (London: Routledge, 2012); (edited with Janet Harbord and Rachel Moore), Public Space, Media Space (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013); (edited with Lu Xinyu and Lisa Rofel), The New Chinese Documentary Film Movement: For the Public Record (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010); (edited with Kim Soyoung and Lynn Spigel), Electronic Elsewheres: Media, Technology, and Social Space (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010); (edited with Nicola Liscutin and Jonathan D. Mackintosh), Cultural Studies and Cultural Industries in Northeast Asia: What a Difference a Region Makes (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2009); (edited with Ying Zhu) TV China (Indiana University Press, 2008); (editor) Chinese Films in Focus II (British Film Institute, 2008); and (edited with Feii Lu) Island on the Edge: Taiwan New Cinema and After (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005).

Shujuan Zhang received her MA in Communication at Fudan University (China), and is currently a graduate student in the Asian Languages and Literature Department, University of Minnesota.

What (not) to Wear during a Cultural Revolution: Film, Fashion, and Agency in China

Leading public intellectual and Tsinghua University professor Wang Hui has pointed out that the legitimacy of market socialism in today’s China is built on the repudiation of the Cultural Revolution “decade of chaos” (1966-1976). Documentary films like Hu Jie’s Though I Am Gone have been building a vital civil archive of testimonials about some of the more traumatic events of the Mao era. But what about everyday life? This talk presents a small research project into film and fashion during the Cultural Revolution, the data for which was collected in Summer of 2011. Today, many people have the impression that everyone dressed in the same drab blue and green military-style clothing or “mao suit” outfits. However, using film clips to trigger memories and group interviews, we found a complex picture emerged of how people used clothing to differentiate themselves from others in an era when anything as “bourgeois” as fashion supposedly did not exist, and how they used films – Chinese and foreign, new and old – as sources of ideas and inspiration.

Chan, Jessica Ka Yee (University of Richmond)

Big Face: The Screen Kiss in Shanghai Cinema of the 1930s

In her essay “The Close-Up: Scale and Detail in the Cinema,” Mary Ann Doane describes the face in close-up as “the intensification of a locus of signification” and situates it in the dialectic between “detail and totality, part and whole, the miniature and the gigantic” (96, 108). In French and in Russian, the term for the close-up denotes largeness or large scale (gros plan in French; krupnij plan in Russian)—unlike the English term that describes proximity. The Chinese term 特写 (texie), evoking the Japanese term 大写し (ooutsushi), literally means “special inscription.” Different from its American and European counterparts, the Chinese term implicitly compares the mechanical act of reproduction with the act of writing, transcription, and inscription. In early Chinese film discourse, how and why was the close-up perceived as a “big face” (da miankong) in “special inscription” (texie)? I trace the genealogy and gender politics of the facial close-up in Shanghai cinema of the 1930s and the ways in which the close-up generated a new consciousness of the female face and the screen kiss.

Chen, Gang (Chinese Agricultural University)

Chen Gang is an associate Professor in Film Studies, the Deputy Chair of the Department of Media & Communication, and Executive Director of Center for Documentary Studies at China Agricultural University. He received his BA in Cinematography and PhD in Film Studies from Beijing Film Academy. He earned his MA in Film Studies from Peking University. His research mainly focuses on Chinese film history, the mass cultural consumption of film, and the cinematography of contemporary Chinese cinema. He has published several journal papers and books about these research areas, such as The History of Cultural Consumption of Film on Shanghai Nanking Road (1895-1937) (China Film Press, 2011). His current research project concerns the interactivity of mass cultural and film consumption under socialized media environment. He won the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award of Beijing in 2011. He is also a documentary filmmaker.

Redrawing The Formation of Movie Star Culture in Shanghai (1930-1937)

Going into the 1930s, Shanghai had become one of the major commercial and consumptive centers in Modern China. Great prosperity and consumerism provided the conditions and construct environment for the formation, development and popularization of early Shanghai movie star culture. Hollywood stars and their screen image were gradually accepted and recognized by the audience in early Shanghai through the powerful advertising campaigns run by Chinese local newspapers and magazines. In the area of the Shanghai international settlement, movie theaters had competed on the entertainment consumer market as dance halls, opera theaters, playgrounds, brothels and other entertainment spaces. In order to prevail in the gamble, the managers of movie theaters racked their brains for the key to attract customers. Sexual temptation was their primary means to attract customers.

As audiences were developing their attachment to local stars, they inevitably and consciously compared the appearances of local stars to those of Hollywood stars. In order to encourage fans shift their worship and infatuation from Hollywood stars to local stars, Chinese domestic film studios promoted their stars by grafting onto the visual image and influence of Hollywood stars. But actually, compared to the blonde western actresses, local actresses were more in line with Chinese traditional beauty standards, where facial structure and figure proportions highlighted the elegance and modesty of the eastern female.

Movie stars, as a cultural consumptive product for audiences, were not only a visual image on the theater screen; they also blended into the daily life of audiences. Countless Chinese film fans followed them as a symbol of the “modern” in everyday life. At that time, Shanghai audience imitated movie stars’ clothing styles, hair, makeup, accessories, and “health and beauty” lifestyles. The exemplary role of the movie star triggered the audience’s desire for maximal material consumption, making for the embrace of the modern consciousness, or “westernization.” Meanwhile, unconsciously, Chinese traditional values were completely subverted. It’s fair to say that the movie star was an apostle leading Shanghai audiences to embrace commercial material civilization.

Chen, Hongwei Thorn (University of Minnesota)

Hongwei Thorn Chen is a doctoral candidate in the department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. His dissertation examines the relationship between Chinese film practices and global educational discourse during the 1930s and 1940s.

Provincializing Chinese Cinema: Shanghai Films at the Zhenjiang Mass Education Center

On the day of the mid-autumn festival in 1934, the film The Golden Years 《黄金时代》opened at the Lyric Theater (金城大戏院) in Shanghai. Directed by the veteran filmmaker Bu Wancang and written in secret by the leftist playwright Tian Han, the film was purportedly inspired by the life of the educator Tao Xingzhi. After winning a government prize, The Golden Years was subsequently shrunk to 16mm by the Jiangsu Bureau of Education and distributed on the latter’s growing circuit of mass education centers. It was one of ten feature films to be shrunk in order to fill in for the lack of domestically produced educational titles available for screening. In tracing how the film about mass education was reappropriated and deployed in the context of the Jiangsu provincial mass education center in Zhenjiang, I elaborate on the educational uses of moving image media within the Nanjing government’s statecraft. Educational film practices brought to the fore the problematic relationship between mass media and the masses, intimately linked to questions of national infrastructure and cultural geography. Institutional efforts to expand cinema’s reach beyond the metropolitan movie theater both revealed and compensated for the tremendous gaps in China’s infrastructural capacity, particularly electrical grids and roads. The concern that Chinese cinema rarely reached the population that best represented “China” dovetailed with governmental anxieties about the spiritual pollution of the city vis a vis rural life. The Golden Years, a film made for the Shanghai metropolitan audience readapted to be screened for a provincial, and sometimes rural, audience, offers an exemplary case with which to study the elaborate “state work” (Stefano Harney’s term) performed by moving image media, highlighting the precarious threshold that decides the administrative and ideological coherence of the national polity. Moreover, it reveals the heterogenous materiality of the cinematic medium that both enables and frustrates its appropriation within the governing categories of the state.

Dong, Xinyu (University of Chicago)

Xinyu Dong is Assistant Professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. She is the author of “Meeting of the Eyes: Invented Gesture, Cinematic Choreography, and Mei Lanfang’s Kun Opera Film,” The Opera Quarterly (August 2010), and “The Laborer at Play: Laborer’s Love, the Operational Aesthetic, and the Comedy of Inventions,” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (Fall 2008). Her book, Comedic Modernism: A Forgotten History of Chinese Cinema, 1922-1937, is forthcoming from The University of Chicago Press.

Battle over Comedy: Rereading the Hard Film vs Soft Film Debate in Shanghai Cinema

One of the best-known episodes of Republican Chinese cinema is the so-called “soft film” versus “hard film” debate in 1933-1935. The official Chinese film history provided the first account in the 1960s, which sided firmly with the hard film camp’s ideological critique. In recent decades, the story was retold many times by revisionist historians. Some major treatises from the soft film camp’s flagship journal Modern Screen were rediscovered and subsequently canonized, with critical attentions paid to their cosmopolitan aspirations and modernist advocacy for medium specificity. The balance is finally tipped.

Yet this is still not the full story. Besides the ideological critique and the medium specificity campaign, there was also a “genre trouble” that surfaced at an important juncture of the debate and cut across the camp lines. It all happened in June 1934. This month saw a climactic crossfire between the two camps where the question of genre, and comedy in particular, took over the central stage. It is the goal of this essay to present the forgotten history of this “battle over comedy.” The “genre trouble,” as much as it complicated the terms of the debate for the two camps, confronts us with a historiographical challenge. A close examination allows us to rethink not only the debate but also the far-reaching effect it had on Chinese leftwing cinema.

Fan, Victor (King’s College London)

Cantonese Cinema: Industrial Crisis and Reconstruction: 1930-57

Film scholars have discussed Cantonese cinema primarily as a subcategory of Chinese national cinema, in the process not only failing to acknowledge the cultural and economic impact of the Canton-Hong Kong film industry since the 1930s, but also implicitly subscribing to a centralized model of Chinese nationalist discourse—with Shanghai’s Mandarin cinema as the imaginary center and other regional cinemas as the margins. A serious study of Cantonese cinema is crucial not only to our understanding of the history of one of the most significant mass cultural formations in China, but also to film scholars’ attempts to redefine the nation as an epistemological category for the study of Chinese cinema. In this chapter, a film historian who grew up watching Cantonese films explores how Cantonese cinema emerged and consolidated out of a historical process of power negotiation and self-exploration. The essay argues that in the historical debates between the 1930s and 1950s, Cantonese filmmakers in effect proposed an alternative understanding of the Chinese nation to that of the Nationalist government. While the Nationalist ideologues imagined the Chinese nation as a unified production machine, the Cantonese filmmakers saw the national space as a public sphere where contesting socio-political and cultural values were actively negotiated.

FitzGerald, Carolyn (Auburn University)

Carolyn FitzGerald is Associate Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at Auburn University. She has published a study on late Chinese modernism, titled Fragmenting Modernisms: Chinese Wartime Literature, Art, and Film, 1937-49 (Brill 2013). Her articles on modern Chinese literature, film, and drama have appeared in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Chinese Films in Focus II, and CHINOPERL Papers.

Singaporean Film and the Sinophone: Glen Goei’s Forever Fever and The Blue Mansion

This paper provides a comparative study of the two films directed and produced to date by Singaporean director Glen Goei (1962-), Forever Fever, a.k.a. That’s The Way I Like It (1998), and The Blue Mansion (2009). According to Goei, these films represent modern Singaporean history from a different perspective than that found in government sanctioned texts. Specifically, they depict national history via the lens of a family ruled over by a traditional Confucian patriarch, whose conflicts with his children reflect the clash between Eastern and Western culture in Singapore. Marketed as a box set, the two films form a narrative about the trajectory of the nation’s modernization and critique the failings of Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party. Through their use of film as a tool to reassess history, Goei’s works have parallels with many other Singaporean films, and the topic of film as an alternative mode of writing national history is a recurrent theme in Singaporean film studies.

While Goei claims that his films are intended to be understood as historical accounts of the Singaporean nation, like many other Singaporean filmmakers, he constructs this history largely in terms of the country’s ethnic Chinese or Peranakan heritage. As such, Sinophone theory is useful in understanding the cultural underpinnings of his films. According to Shu-mei Shih, the Sinophone is defined as “wherever Sinitic languages are spoken on the margins of China and Chineseness.” Claiming that Sinophone culture is characterized by linguistic creolization and “messy hybridity,” Shih writes that it is constructed in resistance against both “China-centrism” and Western colonialism. Nonetheless, she also views Sinophone culture as colonial in certain respects, and argues that “Singapore is a settler colony,” where “the majority of the population being Han is akin to the United States as a settler Anglophone country.”

Drawing from Shih’s theories, I show how Goei’s films critique the impact of both Confucian Chinese patriarchy and Western cultural imperialism in Singapore, at the same time as they largely exclude the nation’s Malaysian and Indian heritages from their narrations of history. However, whereas Shih envisions the Sinophone as predominantly antagonistic towards nationalism, and states that it “does not succumb to nationalist and imperialist pressures,” I illustrate the many ways that Singaporean and Peranakan identity are aligned in Goei’s films. Moreover, while she defines the Sinophone exclusively in terms of language as “wherever Sinitic languages are spoken,” The Blue Mansion was filmed predominantly in English, even though Forever Fever features Singapore’s creolized Singlish dialect. I therefore argue that the concept of the Sinophone should be expanded in the context of Singaporean film to take into consideration Singaporean nationalism and non-Chinese language cinema.

Guo, Li (Utah State University)

Li Guo (Ph. D. University of Iowa) is an assistant professor who teaches Chinese language, literature, and Asian film and literature at the Utah State University. Her research interests include women’s narratives, gender and sexuality, documentary ethics, sound in film, and folklore animation. She is the author of Women’s Tanci Fiction in Late Imperial and Early Twentieth Century China (Purdue University Press, 2015). Her peer-reviewed articles appeared in Sound Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal (2015), Frontiers of Literary Studies in China (2011 and 2014), Tulsa Studies of Women’s Literature (2014), CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture (2013, 2015), Film International (2012), and Consciousness: Literature and the Arts (2011).

Animated History, Plasmatic Reality: China’s Folktale Animation Films from 1941 to 1965

How do animation films expand and reconfigure traditional notions of film historiography? How has animation been theorized in China’s film discourse? How do we understand the culture of consumption of animations in China’s early animation industry from the 1940s to the 1960s? This essay explores China’s folktale animations from Wan Brothers’ first feature length animation Princess Iron Fan in 1941 through the prime years of China’s animation films in the 1950s and early 1960s. I study how animation techniques in films of this period construct a form of malleable, plasmatic reality, and what political and institutional environment conditions China’s animation industry during its early stage of development. Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein proposes that Disney animations often achieve a “plasmatic” flexibility, the ability of animation films to produce sudden and impossible transformation on screen. This plasmaticness of existence, he holds, underlies Disney’s animation model which attracts viewers to the realm of sensation and ecstasy, and provides a notion of utopian possibility. Tom Gunning further redefines animation in connection with the production of cinematic motion, considering “animation as not only displaying but also playing with the production of motion of animation.” Animation reconfigures the experienced “as a fundamental manipulation of time”, “the production of the instant.” For Gunning, the potential of the animation is in “the transformation of stillness to motion.” The ecstatic potential of animation endows it a freedom that is challenging and subversive, evoking, mocking and playing with history.

Resonant with these theoretical questions, a retrospection of China’s animation industry before Cultural Revolution highlights how folktale animations experimented with new ideas and potentials despite the exigencies of ideological structures. The newly established Shanghai Animation Studio consciously departed from the Soviet trend and emphasized on creating China’s national spirit by resorting to traditional watercolors, cut-paper, origami, landscape painting-in-process, and puppet theatre in filmmaking. Ink animations transformed Western animation conventions by prioritizing Chinese poetic paintings and engaged the viewers in the beauty of a lyrical world. Puppet animations revived the archaic powers of traditional puppet performance. Percussion music integrated Beijing opera as a national artistic expression in animation films. Before and during the anti-Japanese war, a series of war-resistance animations served as political allegories of the masses rising against feudalism and imperialism (Princess Iron Fan, The Magic Brush, 1955). Some folktale animations projected socialist utopian ideals of modernization and industrialization (Little Carps Jumping over the Dragon Gate, 1958). The audiences’ interpretations of these animations draw attention to the socio-political contexts of the time. An award-winning animation The Proud General (1956) evoked political readings of the General as a Party allegory, referring to China’s isolated international status preceding the Sino-Soviet Split in 1958. Havoc in Heaven (1963) put China at the peak of global animation industry. However, despite the filmmakers’ cautious adaptation of Journey to the West as a tale of class struggle, the film was accused of being directed against Mao’s authority and censored. Later animations Little Sisters of Grassland (1964), The Cock Crows at Midnight (1964), and Red Army Bridge (1964) foreshadowed the impending Cultural Revolution. The above works imply that animations are artistic and industrial practices which provide viewers fantasy of desires through art forms and vehicles of imagining the nation. Pioneering artists resorted to myriad narrative strategies and artistic techniques to appeal to audiences’ sympathy and transcend the political strictures, performing actively as agents of cultural and historical transformation.

Hong, Guo-Juin (Duke University)

Guo-Juin Hong is Associate Professor of Chinese Culture in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and Director of the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image at Duke University. Hong received his PhD in Rhetoric and Film from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2004. His book, Taiwan Cinema: A Contested Nation on Screen (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), is the first full-length study of Taiwan cinema in English language that covers its entire history since the colonial period. Hong has published articles on topics such as 1930s Shanghai cinema, New Taiwan Cinema, documentary and queer movement. Hong teaches courses on Chinese-language cinemas, Chinese literature and culture, film theory and historiography, melodrama, documentary, and visual culture.

Dire Straits: Shifting Boundaries of “Home” in the Cinematic Representation of 1949

The year 1949 does not only divide. It connects and reconnects various interrelated parts and fragments, showing not a clear sense of what China is but, rather, “China” as a question. The goal of my larger project is tri-fold: to introduce the category of the event vis-à-vis history; to understand 1949 as representational; and to trace a transmedial history of 1949. As an event, the year 1949 stands against history by resisting complete texualization; it is at once clusters of texts and sets of contexts, and the contextualization of each text generates more texts and creates more contexts. And in this generative mode we see the representation of 1949 changes over time. It is a transmedial event of various modes of representation, and it manifests, in Rey Chow’s word, in their entanglements: narrative cinema and documentary film, fiction and auto/biography, archives and memory: history in a strict material sense, inhabiting multiple locations and times.

History in this sense is, however, hard to come by because to write history is to narrativize, a textualization of events in chronology, always in the service of a particular regime under a particular ideology—in this case, contesting ideologies across the Straits and in the global context. The changing notions of “home” are at the center stage of Taiwan cinema’s history, implicitly or explicitly marked by the year 1949. This paper traces the question of “root.” With 1949 as the event of “uprootedness,” thereby locating “home” on the treacherous boundaries that is the Taiwan Straits, I hope to begin sketching the larger context of Taiwan cinema in global cultural history.

Lagesse, Cecile (Yale University)

Cecile Lagesse is a doctoral candidate at Yale University in Film Studies and East Asian Languages and Literature, specializing in Chinese cinema, particularly the urban generation. Her dissertation focuses on the interaction between France and Chinese cinema over the past thirty years. Cecile published the article “Still Life by Jia Zhangke: Realism and the age of the digital” in the December 2008 issue of Cahiers du cinéma. She is also the author of the chapter “Bazin and the Politics of Realism” in Dudley Andrew (ed.). Opening Bazin, published in 2011.

French Producers and the Support of Chinese Art Cinema

While Mainland China’s film industry has gone through unprecedented growth since the turn of the century, it has failed to fully recognize and encourage its art cinema. As a consequence, Chinese auteurs have been forced to seek support abroad, which they have found (for some of them) within the French film industry. In this chapter, I will look into the role French film producers have played in the support of Chinese art cinema. Since the year 2000, French producers have served as a financial support and an intermediary between Chinese directors and the international film network. Furthermore, they have taken part in the process of creation of the directors’ films, thus taking on an entirely new role within the Chinese film industry. To what extent did this interaction between Chinese directors and French producers shape Chinese art cinema? How did it influence the reception of Chinese art cinema within the international film community? This chapter will answer these questions in the context of a Chinese film industry that is rapidly globalizing in both its commercial and art-cinema forms.

Li, Jinying (University of Pittsburgh)

Jinying Li is assistant professor of Film Studies at University of Pittsburgh. Her essays on Asian cinema, animation, and digital media have been published in Film International, Mechademia, and The International Journal of Communication, and will appear in a forthcoming issue of Camera Obscura.

Unstable Pixels: Digital Plasmaticness and Semiotic Pluralism in Chinese Independent Animation

Amid growing studies in a Chinese independent cinema that has captured international acclaim, very little attention has been given to the booming scene of Chinese independent animation, despite the fact that animation production, distribution, and education have been the focus of governmental and industrial support in China for the past decade. Initially developed within the art community, Chinese independent animation took a very different path from the independent cinema, and its recent popularity has almost entirely relied on the wide spread of the internet and digital media instead of international film festivals where Chinese independent cinema took center stage. To some extent, the brief history of Chinese independent animation parallels with the rapid development and maturation of Chinese new media culture at large, and testifies to the growing cultural, social and political significance of digital production and distribution that has fundamentally changed visual culture in China.

This paper studies the history, aesthetics, and politics of Chinese independent animation by critically examining three key works: the Xiao Xiao series (2004), the Kuang Kuang series (2010), and AT animations (2013). These three cases, by featuring different techniques, styles, and production modes, all rely on newly emerged digital image-making tools and online distribution platforms, and their visual characteristics center upon one of the most unique features of animation: metamorphosis, which renders animated images as fluid sites of dynamic transformation. This is what Sergei Eisenstein has famously called “plasmaticness.” Digital imagery, which aligns itself more with animation than with live action cinema, dramatically enhanced the range, scope, and availability of visual plasmaticness in popular cultures. Such digital plastmaticness is especially highlighted in Chinese independent animations, which take advantage of the metamorphic and plastic fluidity of digital images to destabilize, transform, and even subvert the symbolic meanings in existing visual signs that tend to be heavily coded and over-determined by various political and cultural discourses in post-Socialistic China. Examining the political potential of such digital plastmaticness, I would argue, is not only the key to understanding Chinese independent animation per se, but is also significant for refreshing our understanding of digital imagery at large. It calls for a theoretical shift from the debate on indexicality to the question of semiotics in digital media, because the rapid proliferation of image-making tools, which results in dramatic multiplicity and instability of user-generated signs, may have fundamentally changed what it means to be “symbolic” in the digital age.

Lim, Song Hwee

Song Hwee LIM is Associate Professor in the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is the author of two research monographs, Celluloid Comrades: Representations of Male Homosexuality in Contemporary Chinese Cinemas (University of Hawaii Press, 2006) and Tsai Ming-liang and a Cinema of Slowness (University of Hawaii Press, 2014). The founding editor of the Journal of Chinese Cinemas, he is also co-editor of Remapping World Cinema: Identity, Culture and Politics in Film (Wallflower Press, 2006) and The Chinese Cinema Book (BFI/Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). He is currently working on a new research project on Taiwan New Cinema and Beyond.

Liu, Shengmei (Peking University)

Space, Scene, and Body Movements: The Construction of the Jianghu Secondary World in Chinese Martial Arts Films of the Shaw Brothers (1960s-1970s)

As a unique film genre, Chinese Wuxia film concerns both Chinese martial arts and ancient China. Wuxia films deal with Jianghu, which is generally considered to represent the community of martial artists. However, this paper argues that Jianghu is more than that. Jianghu is a combination of a community with unique principles, a space that mixes actual places with imaginary ones, and a chronotope that allows miraculous martial arts to take place.

Since the ancient China that Wuxia films present is less historical than fantastical, this paper calls Jianghu a “Secondary World,” which J. R. R. Tolkien’s defines in his writings on fantasy. Although magical martial arts originate in Taoism, with its non-rational interpretation of the nature as well as human body, the Jianghu based on the magical martial arts possesses its own formula, with different sects, schools, regulations and standards. In other words, Jianghu is a fantasized secondary world with both a non-rational foundation and an “inner consistency of reality” as quasi-fantasy.

The thesis focuses on the classic Wuxia films produced by Shaw Brothers Studio in 1960s and 1970s. Combining historical research into the Shaw Brothers Studio with analysis of the “scene” presented in specific Wuxia films, this paper explores the patterns of the construction of Jianghu secondary world. By analyzing typical “scenes”, I show how the manufactured landscapes created by Shaw Brothers Studio managed to link with incredible body movements. Also, the space the “scenes” infer worked as texts that deployed significant cultural metaphors. In Come Drink with Me (1966), the drunk hero is a ranger who appears as a beggar in outdoor scenes; Shaw Brothers Studio creates a mise-en-scène where he possesses magical martial arts, such as splitting a mini-waterfall with airflows jetting out from his palm. The gesture of the specific martial art is much similar to that of sitting meditation, which could infer both the cultivation of mind and a non-worldly space.

The conclusion of the research might help with the redefinition of Wuxia. The word “Wu”, which had been understood as “martial arts” is rethought as a partly supernatural combination of body movements and fantasized reality. Meanwhile the word “Xia”, which has been used to represent the chivalrous spirit of Chinese swordsmen, might as well be explained as the moral principle of the secondary world Jianghu.

Liu, Xiao (McGill University)

Xiao Liu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies at McGill University. She works in the areas of Chinese cinema, media history and media theory, new media studies and postsocialism. Her current work focuses on media practices and aesthetics in relation to the cybernetic and information discourses in post-Mao late 1970s and 1980s China.

Horror, Historiography and the Aesthetic of the Liminal

The rise of the Fifth-generation in the 1980s and its stunning aesthetics has often been regarded as the most celebrated phenomena in the conventional narrative of Chinese film history. However, Yellow Earth and other films of the Fifth-generation were just one strand among the extremely rich cinematic experiments and practices in the 1980s. This essay brings attention to the low-budget entertainment genre films produced in late 1980s that have received little critical attention so far. Focusing on the horror films released in the last few years of the decade, such as A Beauty’s Head in Haunted House (1989) and The Remote Inn (1990), I propose an understanding of their unique audio-visual features as an aesthetic of the liminal: First, historically, produced at a moment of turmoil on the eve of the June Fourth Incident and under the shadows of looming drastic changes in former socialist countries, these films capture the agitation and anxieties with eerie sounds and images saturated with violence. The second sense of “the liminal” can be located in the changes in media technology: with the popularization of television, the wide use of video recorders and cassettes, and especially the appearance of the digital, the regime of cinematic images became unstable. These horror films constitute self-reflections on the nature of cinematic images by calling attention to the very threshold of visibility and perceptibility. Finally, these film images were soon obscured and forgotten, only to be resuscitated as defective, low-resolution copies circulated through informal channels. The fate of these films also raises the issue of archives and the pertinence of cinematic media in the writing of film history.

Ma, Jean (Stanford University)

Jean Ma is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University, where she teaches in the Film and Media Studies Program. She is the author of Melancholy Drift: Marking Time in Chinese Cinema (2010) and Sounding the Modern Woman: The Songstress in Chinese Cinema (2015), and a coeditor of Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography (2008) and “Sound and Music,” a special issue of the Journal of Chinese Cinemas. Her work has appeared in Camera Obscura, Criticism, Grey Room, Post Script, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, A Companion to Michael Haneke, and Global Art Cinemas: New Histories and Theories.

Of Wild Roses and Pink Tears: The Afterlife of Lady of the Camellias in Postwar Hong Kong Cinema

The French novel La dame aux camélias (Alexandre Dumas fils, 1848) has long been recognized by literary scholars as a key point of reference for modern Chinese fiction. Upon its translation in 1899 La dame captivated readers, inspired a legion of imitations, and entrenched itself as an ur-text within a political and cultural milieu that proved especially hospitable to the romanticist ideal of free love dramatized by its story. The reverberations of the lady of the camellias, however, do not expire with the romantic period of modern Chinese literature. They continue to resonate across subsequent decades, winding their way into the narrative repertoire of cinema and finding a fertile ground for further development in the postwar Hong Kong film industry. The persistent traces of this text force into consideration the dense connections between this chapter of Chinese-language film history and the mass media culture of early twentieth-century Shanghai, connections that cut across and complicate the political divides of war, dislocation, and exile. In the context of postwar Hong Kong cinema, adaptation poses questions of historiography as well as of cross-cultural interchange and the cross-fertilization of literary and cinematic modes of modernism.

This essay tracks the afterlife of La dame aux camélias in the vibrant commercial film culture of 1950s and 60s Hong Kong. La dame’s tragic tale – of true love run aground by the lethal recalcitrance of patriarchy and bourgeois respectability, of a fallen woman who proves her inner virtue by a selfless act of sacrifice and a man who does not recognize her sacrifice until it is too late – supplies a series of tropes that become key ingredients of an evolving melodramatic idiom. As these examples demonstrate, adaptation functions as a “generative grammar” (to borrow Robert Stam’s formulation) in the historical turns of Chinese melodrama. Drawing on a tradition of sentimental fiction as well as various Western influences, this melodramatic mode constitutes one of the signal developments of postwar film.

McGrath, Jason (University of Minnesota)

Jason McGrath is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, where he also serves on the graduate faculty of Moving Image Studies. He is the author of Postsocialist Modernity: Chinese Cinema, Literature, and Criticism in the Market Age (Stanford UP, 2008), and his essays on Chinese film have appeared in several journals and anthologies. His current projects include an anthology of Chinese writings on film and a book manuscript entitled “Inscribing the Real: Realism and Convention in Chinese Cinema from the Silent Era to the Digital Age.”

Tsai, Po-Chen (National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan)

Po-Chen Tsai is an Assistant Professor at the Graduate Institute for Studies in Visual Cultures at National Yang-Ming University, where she teaches the history and theory of technological media (photography, film, television, video, new media); Chinese- language/Sinophone cinemas; history of video, performance and installation arts; and the cultures of displacement, migration, and globalization. She holds a Ph.D. in Cinema and Media Studies from The University of Chicago. She completed her dissertation entitled “Singing, Dancing, and the Mass Production of Nonbelonging: Musicals, Melodramas, Migration, and the Transnationalization of Hong Kong Cinema, 1940s – 1960s” in 2013, and is currently writing an article on the emergence of musicals as a film genre during the late 1920s to the 1930s in Shanghai cinema. Before turning to academic work, Dr. Tsai received formal training in traditional photography and documentary filmmaking. Her experimental film/video poetry won a Taiwan Golden Harvest Film Award, one of the most prestigious film and video awards for independent filmmakers in Taiwan. She also participated in curating international film and video festivals both in Chicago and Taiwan, and has worked as a film projectionist in Chicago. Those experiences form the basis of her inquiry into the materiality of film, and her understanding of what cinema is and how it works.

A Cinema of Nonbelonging: Rethinking Hong Kong Mandarin Film Musicals of the 1950s

Why were so many Mandarin-language film musicals produced in postwar Hong Kong, a major base for Cantonese film production? Why are so many orphans, widowed parents, adopted girls, single women and men, homeless figures, and border-crossing migrants in Mandarin film musicals and musical melodramas made in postwar Hong Kong? Who were the audiences of those films, and what appeal did the films have? What can the historical trajectory of a popular Chinese-language film genre tell us about Chinese, Chinese-language, and/or Sinophone film history, while simultaneously complicating our understanding of these terms?

In this paper, I analyze aesthetic conventions and thematic concerns of Mandarin musicals made in postwar Hong Kong in order to draw the contours of the genre. Viewing films as sites where cultural and political forces collide, I suggest that the aesthetic conventions and thematic concerns of 1950s Hong Kong Mandarin musicals were not simply autonomous aesthetic choices made by particular filmmakers or film studios. Rather, they were highly conditioned by specific historical and political situations, including: the Chinese civil war that brought to Hong Kong migratory waves of people, capital, and industries; the Korean War and the Cold War that brought drastic political and social changes to the region; various laws and cultural policies imposed by governing powers in the region to regulate film production and circulation; and lastly, the founding of two large film studios in Hong Kong by Southeast Asia-based ethnic Chinese entrepreneurs.

Tracing aesthetic connections between postwar Hong Kong Mandarin musicals and their 1930s Shanghai precursors and identifying the similarities and differences between Mandarin musicals and melodramas (wenyipian), I contend that Mandarin musicals of postwar Hong Kong were the major cultural vehicle through which popular and subaltern experiences of war, displacement, and migration were mediated and articulated. More importantly, I argue that the appeal of this genre might have lain in its capacity to speak affectively to an audience that was simultaneously diasporic and transregional. They did so by offering translatable sentiments of homelessness and nonbelonging at the gaps between images, narratives, songs and dance numbers, while bypassing various censorship regulations.

Udden, James (Gettysburg College)

James Udden is Associate Professor and Chair of the Cinema and Media Studies Program at Gettysburg College. In addition to numerous articles and anthology chapters, he has published No Man an Island: The Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hisen (Hong Kong University Press, 2009 – revised edition forthcoming). His current projects include The Poetics of Chinese Cinema, co-edited with Gary Bettinson (forthcoming, Palgrave Macmillan) and an in-depth monograph and the improbably parallel rise of Taiwan and Iran as film festival powerhouses starting in the 1980s.

Taiwan’s Meteoric Rise as a Film Festival Powerhouse: A Revised Institutional History

By the year 2000, Taiwan was a “star” on the global network of international film festivals. Global polls ranked Taiwan (tied with Iran) as the third most important national cinema globally in the 1990s after the United States and France. Taiwan’s dominating presence even at Cannes led established European counties to complain over their own lack of representation.

How this came about, however, has been little studied. Moreover, there are two common assumptions made that have not been closely scrutinized. One, that this penetration of film festivals was in part the result of a governmental effort. Two, film festivals in heated competition with each other were lying in wait to pounce on the next newest “trend” in world cinema.

This talk (and chapter) argues against these two assumptions. It will carefully scrutinize the role of institutions both within and outside of Taiwan to determine responsibility for this remarkable development. Surprisingly, the Taiwanese government never had any plan whatsoever of getting these films into film festivals: the New Cinema only designed to salvage a domestic film industry in crisis. Moreover, even as Taiwan began to rise in the festival world in the mid-1980s, the government was slow to respond to these developments, even in 1989 when City of Sadness won the Golden Lion at Venice.

Likewise, the assumption that leading film festivals were just waiting to pounce on anything new does not hold up to close scrutiny when looking back at the 1980s. If anything, the “Big 3” (i.e. Venice, Cannes and Berlin) were skittish about the ROC on Taiwan due to its low reputation at the time. Instead newcomers in the festival world were the first to open their doors. Most important was the Festival des 3 Continents in Nantes, France in existence since 1979. After making the initial breakthroughs there, Taiwan’s next step up to was at Locarno, Switzerland. Only then did Taiwan manage to penetrate the top rung of the festival world, starting at Venice in 1989.

To wit, the impetus for this development did not come from the Taiwanese government, nor even the top echelons of the film festival world, but from other “lesser” players who took the initial risks.

Wang, Chunchi (National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan)

Chunchi Wang earned her doctoral degree in Critical Studies from at University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television. She is currently an Associate Professor in English Department at National Dong Hwa University.

Configuring Translocalism in Taiwanese-dialect Cinema

This paper argues for an examination of the multi-sourced nature of Taiwanese-dialect cinema in order to unravel its close contact with Hong Kong cinema, especially the films in Cantonese dialect made during the mid-1960s. As a dialect cinema, Taiwanese-dialect cinema tends to be regarded as an exclusively local cinematic practice. Yet, since its inception, it had sought to incorporate influences of and inspirations from international cinema as a way to modernize itself to be more than a filmic version of folk operas and folklore stories. Hollywood and Japanese cinema are two explicit objects of emulation for Taiwanese-dialect cinema due to the former’s global presence and the latter’s ability to represent so-called national essence with modern, i.e. westernized, film techniques. However, certain Cantonese films indeed also played an important role in shaping Taiwanese-dialect cinema, though this relationship has not received much critical attention. Taking the spy film genre as the case in point, this paper attempts to trace the interaction between small-scale Cantonese and Taiwanese-dialect cinemas to shed light on the translocal network of Taiwanese-dialect cinema as a competitive alliance that counteracts the power bloc of mandarin cinema, a complicity between KMT and major Hong Kong studios, especially the Shaw Brothers. Moreover, this translocal network illustrates a need to go beyond a Hollywood-centered and territory-bounded transnational framework in understanding peripheral dialect cinema.

Wang, Yiman (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Yiman Wang is Associate Professor of Film & Digital Media at University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Remaking Chinese Cinema: Through the Prism of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Hollywood (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 2013). She is currently working on two book projects: one on Anna May Wong; and the other on animality in cinema.

Her articles have appeared in Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Film Quarterly, Camera Obscura, Journal of Film and Video, Literature/Film Quarterly, Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, Chinese Films in Focus (Chris Berry ed. 2003, 2008), Idols of Modernity: Movie Stars of the 1920s (Patrice Petro ed. 2010), The New Chinese Documentary Film Movement: For the Public Record (Chris Berry, Lü Xinyu, and Lisa Rofel eds. 2010), Cinema at the City’s Edge: Film and Urban Networks in East Asia (Yomi Braester and James Tweedie eds. 2010), Engendering Cinema: Chinese Women Filmmakers Inside and Outside China (Lingzhen Wang ed. 2011), The Chinese Cinema Book (Julian Ward and Song H. Lim eds. 2011), A Companion to Chinese Cinema (Yingjin Zhang ed. 2012), The Oxford Handbook of Chinese Cinemas (Carlos Rojas and Eileen Chow eds. 2013), Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space (Jennifer Bean et. a. eds. 2014), Sinophone Cinemas (Audrey Yue and Olivia Khoo eds., 2014), China’s iGeneration: Cinema and Moving Image Culture for the Twenty-First Century (Matthew D. Johnson et. al. eds. 2014), and American and Chinese-Language Cinemas: Examining Cultural Flows (Lisa Funnell, Man-Fung Yip eds., 2014).

Film Historiography through the Self-reflexive Screen – When a Star is Reborn

If historiography refers to “the representation of history in verbal images and written discourse” (Hayden White 1988: 1193), then in studying Chinese film historiography, one must interrogate the exact strategies of and agendas in narrativizing the history of Chinese cinema. These strategies of narrativization become especially poignant at the historical threshold moments that percolate through self-reflexive filmmaking. Inscribing historical circumstances, these films constitute what White calls “historiophoty,” or “the representation of history and our thought about it in visual images and filmic discourse” (White 1193). The convergence of historiography and historiophoty offers fertile ground for exploring the ways in which Chinese film and its shifting history simultaneously destabilize and constitute each other.

My essay examines this complex relationship by studying two films, An Unfinished Comedy (dir. Lu Ban 1957) and Centre Stage (dir. Stanley Kwan 2000). An Unfinished Comedy is a mainland Chinese satire made under the aegis of the state cultural policy of “letting a hundred flowers bloom.” It features Han Langen and Yin Xiuceng – the Chinese Laurel and Hardy who made their name as comedians in the 1930s – playing themselves resuming their acting career in Changchun Film Studio (founded on the resources of Japan’s Manchukuo Film Association during the war) while striving to refashion themselves as new cultural workers in the socialist China. Centre Stage is a biopic of Ruan Lingyu – the 1930s Shanghai “tragedy queen” – made shortly after Hong Kong’s 1997 Handover. It features Maggie Cheung reenacting Ruan’s screen personae and life experiences, but framing all of these in a meta-cinematic structure that shows Kwan interviewing Cheung and other actors, inviting them to comment on their relationships with the historical figures they respectively reanimate.

Both films engage with a specific historical conjuncture in audiovisual terms by bringing the filmic past (actors) into dialog/clash with the present, eliciting a mutually reflexive relationship between them. In the process of re-enactment that visualizes memory, the past becomes in-exorcizable as much as the present becomes inextricably embedded in the past. Furthermore, Centre Stage also compels us to reconsider the past-present relationship in spatial terms between Republican Shanghai and “postcolonial” Hong Kong cinemas. These two self-reflexive films exemplify the intertwining of historiophoty and historiography, which form the two flippable sides of the Möbius strip. They call attention to the crucial role that Chinese cinema has played in constructing its own shifting historiography.

Wang, Zhuoyi (Hamilton College)

Zhuoyi Wang is Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures at Hamilton College and the author of Revolutionary Cycles in Chinese Cinema, 1951-1979 (Palgrave, 2014).

Negotiating the Ideal Womanhood: Ideological Interventions into the Legend of Mulan in Confucian and Republican China

Disney’s Mulan (1998) has generated much scholarship comparing the film with the Northern Wei text upon which it is supposedly based: The Ballad of Mulan. While such comparison has produced meaningful criticism of the Orientalism inherent in Disney’s cultural appropriation of a legend from China, it often ironically perpetuates the Orientalist paradigm by reducing the legend into a unified entity that is the “authentic” Chinese “original.”

This paper intends to contextualize Disney’s Mulan in the long history of transformations of the cultural representation of Mulan. It examines the ideological interventions into this folklore by such texts as Tang Dynasty poems, Song Dynasty essays, Yuan Dynasty stone inscriptions, Ming Dynasty plays, late Qing biographies, and Republican-era films. I argue that such interventions have turned Mulan’s legend into a cultural palimpsest with layers of heterogeneous and hetero-temporal ideological sediments, including non-Confucian (possibly non-Han) adventurous heroism and defiance against rigid gender differentiation, Confucian filiality and loyalty, Neo-Confucian female virtues, as well as modern nationalism and nationalist feminism. Thanks to the tensions among these sediments, Mulan has been a notable and adaptable female figure for intellectuals of different times to negotiate the norms of the ideal womanhood. Productive criticism of Western ideological appropriations of Mulan should move beyond the rigid dichotomy of static East versus change-making West, taking full account of the hybridity and fluidity of those products that define what is commonly perceived as “Chinese” culture today.

Zhang, Yingjin (University of California, San Diego)

Yingjin Zhang, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, is currently Chair of the Department of Literature at University of California, San Diego. He is the author of The City in Modern Chinese Literature and Film (Stanford, 1996), Screening China (Michigan, 2002), Chinese National Cinema (Routledge, 2004), and Cinema, Space, and Polylocality in a Globalizing China (Hawaii, 2010); co-author of Encyclopedia of Chinese Film (Routledge, 1998), New Chinese-Language Documentaries: Ethics, Subject and Place (Routledge, 2014); editor of China in a Polycentric World (Stanford, 1998), Cinema and Urban Culture in Shanghai, 1922-1943 (Stanford, 1999), A Companion to Chinese Cinema (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), ), A Companion to Modern Chinese Literature (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016); and co-editor of From Underground to Independent (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), Chinese Film Stars (Routledge, 2010), and Liangyou, Kaleidoscopic Modernity and the Shanghai Global Metropolis (Brill, 2013).

Zhang, Zhen (New York University)

Zhang Zhen is Associate Professor in Cinema Studies and History at New York University. Her scholarly work includes An Amorous History of the Silver Screen: Shanghai Cinema 1896-1937, The Urban Generation: Chinese Cinema and Society at the Turn of the 21st Century (both translated into Chinese), and the recently published DV-Made China: Digital Subjects and Social Transformations After Independent Film (co-edited with Angela Zito). She initiated Reel China Documentary Biennial at NYU in 2001, and is founder and Director of the Asian Film and Media Initiative at NYU since 2012.

From Sidewalk Xianchang to Spectral Realism: Yang Lina’s Beijing and Beyond

Yang Lina is among the pioneering independent filmmakers who took up DV to document the rapidly changing urban landscape and social fabric in Beijing around the turn of the twenty-first century. Her award-winning documentary Old Men (1999) is a path-breaking work that initiated the DV turn in the New Documentary Movement. Tracking the daily routines of a group of old men on Beijing’s sidewalks, Yang, a dancer-turned filmmaker, approached her subject with an immersive, embodied street-level documentary realism. While Old Men retains indelible traces of a by now largely vanished postsocialist capital city, Yang’s two following interlocking documentaries, Let’s Dance Together (2007) and The Loves of Lao An (2007) capture the rhythms and dynamism of social dance as conduit of self-expression, desire and mutual aid staged on the city’s public parks in the neoliberal era. These more dramatized documentaries navigating the labyrinth of desire of ordinary Beijing citizens intimated the arrival of Yang’s first narrative feature Longing for the Rain (2012), about the spiritual loss and “paranormal” erotic longing of a middle class woman. The hybrid style of the film vividly illustrates the vacillation between what film critic Bérénice Reynaud calls the “desire for bodily archive” and the “desire for cinema” characteristic of the “Chinese digital shadows”, or the post-Independent cinema of which Yang is arguably an important figurehead with a strong feminist sensibility. I argue that with this daring work, Yang re-embeds the previous sidewalk xianchang realism within a “spectral realism” that anatomizes contemporary Chinese urban life, especially that of the the new middle class, with a sharp precision.

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  1. Megan SadlerAugust 8, 2015 at 8:54 pmReply

    Will there be any audio/visual recordings or streaming available?

    • Aaron Victorin-VangerudAugust 10, 2015 at 10:49 amReplyAuthor

      The organizers are planning to take audio of the Thursday evening roundtable–for primarily internal use–but they are not planning to record the rest. As far as I know. The person to ask is Thorn Chen:

  2. Aaron Victorin-VangerudJuly 13, 2015 at 11:16 amReplyAuthor

    No registration is needed.

  3. Caliann LumJuly 9, 2015 at 6:18 pmReply

    Do I need to register? Also, have you seen this Kickstarter project?

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