Spaces of Encounter (JCC) special issue–cfp

Call for Paper: Spaces of Encounter
Journal of Chinese Cinemas, Special Issue 2021

This special issue seeks innovative research that explores the many spaces in which cinema (broadly defined) is exhibited and encountered in China and the Sinophone world from the late nineteenth century to the present.

Where do we encounter cinema? As digital technologies transform the ways in which moving images are produced and consumed, they also call attention to the extent to which cinema has previously been defined and theorized through a specific exhibition space, namely, the movie theater. American film historian William Paul, for example, asks “if movies are no longer inescapably an art of the theater, have we lost an understanding of the art form that seemed self-evident to past audiences?” But in China and the Sinophone world, cinema was never bound up with the movie theater. From its first appearance in luxurious hotels and tea gardens, cinema has been exhibited in many venues alongside the commercial movie theater, such as classrooms, village squares, workers’ clubs, video halls (luxiang ting), museums, long-distance buses, and the living room. In addition, theme parks and tourist sites offer entry into filmed worlds through characters and landscapes. Large urban screens and personal mobile devices turn sidewalks, malls, and public transit into potential screening spaces (or what Francesco Casetti calls hypertopias). New digital spaces of exhibition afford users novel ways of interaction and performance, such as danmaku/danmu commentaries and the ability to easily create gifs from the video browser. Continue reading

Pedagogy of Chinese Film–cfp

In recent years, the humanities and social sciences have witnessed a fast-growing presence of pedagogical practices with moving images across a wide range of fields. Along with the ever-changing film studies curriculum, films have been used in diverse ways to, among other purposes, increase learning motivation and engagement; provide cognitive facilities for theoretical concepts; present complex and subtle information as analytical materials; and simulate an experience with unfamiliar, underrepresented, or difficult-to-reach subjects. At the same time, there are scholars and instructors who caution against using film for teaching, especially when the subject is projected as an “other” on screen, because they are concerned about its potential to create negative emotional tension; blur the boundary between reality and representation; and generate false, distorted, or simplistic understanding of real-world complexity. Continue reading

Jia Zhangke on Swimming

Source: SCMP (2/25/20)
‘My gift’: Chinese director Jia Zhangke on using China’s most influential writers to paint a subtle portrait of country’s history since 1949
One of China’s so-called ‘sixth generation’ of filmmakers, Jia’s Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue brings to an end his trilogy about the arts in China. Focus here is on the written word, with three distinguished Chinese writers – Jia Pingwa, Yu Hua and Liang Hong – giving their insights
By James Mottram

Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s latest documentary Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue brings to a conclusion his trilogy about the arts in China. Photo: AFP

Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s latest documentary Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue brings to a conclusion his trilogy about the arts in China. Photo: AFP

Sitting quietly in Berlin’s Hyatt Hotel for this interview, Jia Zhangke is a long way from home – a subject that must be on his mind right now.

One of the pre-eminent figures in China’s so-called “sixth generation” of filmmakers, famed for such films as A Touch of Sin, the Venice-winning Still Life and Ash Is Purest White, he is here at the Berlinale to present Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue.

Jia’s first documentary since 2011’s I Wish I Knew, this non-fiction odyssey also takes him back to his native Fenyang in Shanxi Province, the setting for a number of his films including Platform and Mountains May Depart. Continue reading

Swimming Out Till the Seat Turns Blue review

Source: The Film Stage (2/22/20)
Berlin Review: Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue Finds Jia Zhangke Returning to the Waves of Time
Rory O’Connor

Still from the film.

Of all the monumental parts that tend to constitute the films of Jia Zhangke–the shifting socio-economic landscapes; the departing mountains; Zhao Tao–none has been as prevalent or essential as time. He is a director with one eye on the then and one eye on the now (and occasionally one on the future).

Time is once again key to his latest work, a documentary titled Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue, in which Jia uses both the writings of Ma Feng and a series of interviews with celebrated authors from his native Shanxi to cast an eye over China’s shift from rural to urban living; the implications of that change if not the more state-censorship-sensitive aspects. The mood, as ever, is one of reminiscence. Continue reading

Sensible Politics

William A. Callahan, Sensible Politics: Visualizing International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2020).
Discount code ASFLYQ6: so paperback is $19.57

Book abstract:

Visual images are everywhere in international politics. But how are we to understand them? In Sensible Politics, William A. Callahan uses his expertise in theory and filmmaking to explore not only what visuals mean, but also how visuals can viscerally move and connect us in “affective communities of sense.”

The book’s rich analysis of visual images (photographs, film, art) and visual artifacts (maps, veils, walls, gardens, cyberspace) shows how critical scholarship needs to push beyond issues of identity and security to appreciate the creative politics of social-ordering and world-ordering. Continue reading

Moulding the Socialist Subject

Xiaoning Lu, Moulding the Socialist Subject: Cinema and Chinese Modernity (1949-1966) (Leiden: Brill 2020)
Series: Ideas, History, and Modern China, Volume: 22
Hardback ISBN: 978-90-04-42351-0 Publication Date: 03 Feb 2020
E-Book  ISBN:  978-90-04-42352-7  Publication Date: 30 Jan 2020

What role did cinema play in the Chinese Communist Party’s political project of shaping ideal socialist citizens in the early People’s Republic? In Moulding the Socialist Subject, Xiaoning Lu deploys case studies from popular film genres, movie star culture and rural film exhibition practices to argue that Chinese cinema in 1949–1966, at once an important political instrument, an enjoyable yet instructive form of entertainment, and a specific manifestation of the socialist society of the spectacle, was an everyday site where the moulding of the new socialist person unfolded. While painting a broad picture of Chinese socialist cinema, Lu credits the human agency of film professionals, whose self-reflexivity and individual adaptability played an intrinsic role in the Party’s political project. Continue reading

Urban Horror

Urban Horror Urban Horror: Neoliberal Post-Socialism and the Limits of Visibility
By Erin Huang
Duke University Press, 2020

In Urban Horror, Erin Y. Huang theorizes the economic, cultural, and political conditions of neoliberal post-socialist China. Drawing on Marxist phenomenology, geography, and aesthetics from Engels and Merleau-Ponty to Lefebvre and Rancière, Huang traces the emergence and mediation of what she calls urban horror—a sociopolitical public affect that exceeds comprehension and provides the grounds for possible future revolutionary dissent. She shows how documentaries, blockbuster feature films, and video art from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan made between the 1990s and the present rehearse and communicate urban horror. In these films urban horror circulates through myriad urban spaces characterized by the creation of speculative crises, shifting temporalities, and dystopic environments inhospitable to the human body. The cinematic image and the aesthetics of urban horror in neoliberal post-socialist China lay the groundwork for the future to such an extent, Huang contends, that the seeds of dissent at the heart of urban horror make it possible to imagine new forms of resistance. Continue reading

Three views of ‘One Child Nation’

Source: China File (2/6/20)
What a Picture of China’s One-Child Policy Leaves Out
Three Views of Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang’s ‘One Child Nation’
By Jie Li, Susan Greenhalgh, and Karen Thornber

Kevin Frayer—Getty Images. A student performs eye exercises in her classroom in Beijing, December 18, 2015.


Brainwashed? Reflections on Propaganda in One Child Nation
By Jie Li

One Child Nation, a documentary distributed by Amazon Studios which was shortlisted for an Academy Award, is becoming one of the most influential films about China in the United States. Marketed as “the truth beyond the propaganda,” the film’s opening credits juxtapose luminous jars of aborted and abandoned fetuses against a military parade of robotic marching soldiers. Equating propaganda with lies, violence, and farce, One Child Nation at once reveals and recycles the logic, power, and aesthetics of propaganda.

Born in 1985, six years after the one-child policy was launched, filmmaker Nanfu Wang grew up seeing its omnipresent reminders “painted on the walls, printed on playing cards, calendars, matches, snack boxes, posters, all of them blended into the background of life in China.” She brings her American-born baby son back to her village in rural Jiangxi province, and describes herself as starting to “remember” the propaganda about the policy in textbooks, plaques on people’s doors, opera and dance performances, TV, and children’s songs. The film includes a photo of her as a teenager in a choir: “This was me performing propaganda songs. We all had the same makeup, the same dresses, and the same mentality.” This makes her wonder “if the thoughts I had were really my own, or if they were simply learned.” The film’s agenda, then, is to expose and unlearn propaganda. . . [click here to read all three essays in full]

Indiescape HK and the Post-Handover Film World

Indiescape Hong Kong and the Post-Handover Film World
Feature Topic in the journal Ex-position
Guest editor, Kenny NG (Hong Kong Baptist University)

“Independent cinema” in Hong Kong has gained much currency both in academia and in film production and reception circles since the 1997 handover. Despite the fact that the term itself is frequently invoked in critical discourse and film festival programming, the meanings and contours of independent cinema as it is practiced in Hong Kong remain a matter of debate, except for the general consensus that being “independent” in moviemaking confers a disposition of distancing from the mainstream film industry in terms of styles, genres, modes of production and exhibition, financing, or public reception. Independent filmmakers can be bona fide auteurs who have greater control over the subject matter and stylistic choices of their works compared with their mainstream counterparts. Still, creative autonomy is never absolute and always comes with a cost. Filmmakers have to play by the rules of the emerging habitus of independent cinema, while the dynamic and ambivalent exchanges between independent and mainstream cinema are constantly at play in Hong Kong when an independent filmmaker (or film) enters mainstream production and circulation.

This special topic features articles that examine independent cinema in the context of post-handover Hong Kong, and attempt to reinvent or interrogate the notion of Hong Kong Indiescape.

All the articles are available at the journal’s website:

Continue reading

Hollywood losing ground the Chinese blockbusters?

Source: Taipei Times (1/20/20)
Hollywood losing ground to Chinese blockbusters?
In the world’s soon-to-be largest market, audience preferences may be shifting toward local productions

Movie poster for Detective Chinatown 3, which will be showing in China during the Lunar New Year holiday. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

China’s biggest week of the year for movie-goers is packed with at least 12 new releases — all in the local language — a sign that Hollywood studios are headed for another challenging year in their No. 1 overseas market.

The lineup of potential Lunar New Year blockbusters from Jan. 24 to Jan. 30 is drawing even more attention than usual because China is set to overtake the US as the world’s largest movie market this year. The milestone is important as well for US filmmakers that have come to rely on revenue from China to backstop big-budget “tentpoles,” films made to be big earners to offset the financial riskiness of a studio’s other titles.

“Chinese and American audiences are tired of these tentpole movies,” said Beijing-born Jean Su, a producer and co-founder of Broadvision Pictures, a Los Angeles-based independent film and TV studio that focuses on movies for global audiences including North America and China. She said some recent tentpoles haven’t done well in the US and may not get the box office they expected in China, either.

The rising dominance of Chinese blockbusters is in line with a broader shift toward local goods as a trade war with the US stokes nationalism. Older American franchise films like Fast & Furious and Transformers, that used to offset mediocre box-office sales in the US with big China receipts, have seen their share of China’s estimated US$29 billion movie market dwindle. Continue reading

HK protests inspire film fest organizers

Source: SCMP (1/21/20)
Hong Kong protests inspire film festival organisers from Rotterdam to New York
From a 1992 film about life in a cage-home apartment to dystopian feature Ten Years to newly shot short films, Rotterdam event aims to set protests in context. New York’s Metrograph Cinema programme To Hong Kong With Love is billed as a series of Hong Kong New Wave films paired with documentaries about the protests
By Richard James Havis

A still from the new documentary film If We Burn by James Leong and Lynn Lee, which will be showing at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

A still from the new documentary film If We Burn by James Leong and Lynn Lee, which will be showing at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

It is difficult for Hongkongers to see locally made films about the ongoing anti-government protests in Hong Kong cinemas. But interest in the demonstrations has led foreign cinemas and film festivals to programme documentaries and feature films relating to Hong Kong’s political movements.

This month, the Netherlands’ International Film Festival Rotterdam, one of the world’s top-10 film festivals, is screening a programme called Ordinary Heroes: Made in Hong Kong, which comprises more than 20 documentaries, features and short films that focus on the “umbrella movement” in 2014 and the current protests. The festival opens on January 22.

In New York, the popular Metrograph Cinema on Manhattan’s Lower East Side will present a programme titled To Hong Kong With Love, which it describes as a “series of Hong Kong New Wave films paired with timely documentaries about the current protest movement”. The programme opens on February 1. Continue reading

Gay romance Suk Suk wins top prize in HK

Source: SCMP (1/20/20)
Young directors honoured in 2019 Hong Kong Film Critics Society awards, with top prize going to gay romance Suk Suk
Director Ray Yeung’s first Chinese-language feature, Suk Suk tells of an affair between two elderly men; along with top prize, it earns best actor for Tai Bo. Derek Tsang named best director for Better Days, his second feature, while screenwriting award goes to My Prince Edward, debut feature of Norris Wong
By Edumd Lee

Tai Bo (left) and Ben Yuen in a still from gay romance Suk Suk, the first Chinese-language feature by Ray Yeung, named best film of 2019 by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society. Most of the awards went to films that were the first or second features of young directors.

Tai Bo (left) and Ben Yuen in a still from gay romance Suk Suk, the first Chinese-language feature by Ray Yeung, named best film of 2019 by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society. Most of the awards went to films that were the first or second features of young directors.

Melancholic gay romance drama Suk Suk has been voted the best Hong Kong film of 2019 by a panel of critics, the Hong Kong Film Critics Society announced on Monday.

The first feature directed by filmmaker Ray Yeung in the Chinese language, Suk Suk was previously nominated in five categories at the 2019 Golden Horse Awards in Taipei, even though it came home empty-handed on that occasion. The film tells of the affair between two closeted elderly men – played by Ben Yuen Fu-wah and Tai Bo – who are both married and have families.

Tai Bo is one of two actors recognised by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society: he shared the best actor honour with Terrance Lau Chun-him, a theatre and television actor making his big-screen debut in Beyond the Dream. Continue reading

China Independent Film Fest closes

Source: Reuters (1/11/20)
Independent film festival in China shuts, says ‘impossible’ to pursue independence

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – One of China’s longest-running and largest independent film festivals has suspended operations “indefinitely”, with the organisers saying it was now “impossible” to organise a festival with a “purely independent spirit”.

The China Independent Film Festival (CIFF), which was established in the eastern city of Nanjing in 2003 and has held 14 sessions so far, made the announcement late on Thursday.

It did not provide more details of what pushed it to such a decision, but the move comes amid growing media censorship in China, which has seen regulators crack down on content they believe to violate “socialist core values”.

“We believe, that under current local organisational conditions, that it is impossible to organise a film festival that truly has a purely independent spirit and which is effective,” the CIFF said on its official WeChat account.

“Of course, to those grassroots film festivals that under the mask of security still try to encourage independence, we express our respect.”

CIFF showed around 1,000 films and documentaries since its founding, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper. A number of them touched on topics considered sensitive in China, such as homosexuality and the relocation of residents under the Three Gorges dam project.

Zhang Xianmin, a professor from Beijing Film Academy who has been the CIFF’s core organiser, told the SCMP on Friday that the closure was “normal”.

“We are just back to the usual rule under the Party. We just went back to 20 years ago, when there was no room and opportunity for independent films.”

“If we had promoted the commercialisation of CIFF, that might have made it safer and we could have had the chance to survive.”

The Wild Goose Lake

Source: SCMP (1/8/20)
Starring Hu Ge and with a plot worthy of Raymond Chandler, film noir by Diao Yinan is a Chinese box office hit, and he says it’s a genre he’ll stick to
Why change a winning hand? Director of The Wild Goose Lake, who’s spun China-set films noir into gold, says he’ll pursue the genre and make films even better. Diao’s films are notable for their style, and he cites influences from Francois Truffaut and Robert Bresson to Chen Kaige and Jia Zhangke.
by James Mottram

Director Diao Yinan (left) and actor Hu Ge in a still from The Wild Goose Lake.

Director Diao Yinan (left) and actor Hu Ge in a still from The Wild Goose Lake.

According to Chinese filmmaker Diao Yinan, there are two types of director.

One will continue pursuing a particular thematic and stylistic trajectory from film to film, “whereas some other directors will take a very different path”, he says. “After one success, they might want to try something thematically or stylistically completely different. Like Kubrick, say.”

As anyone who has seen Diao’s work will know, he’s very much in the former camp, “thinking about continuities”, as he puts it, “and how I’m going to stay on that particular thematic and stylistic track”.

A genre filmmaker who has become increasingly obsessed with the rich framework afforded by film noir, the 50-year-old Diao has already triumphed in this arena, with 2014’s Black Coal, Thin Ice.

Diao’s bleak tale of a murder, in which Liao Fan’s detective tries to piece together the mystery of a dismembered corpse, won the Berlin Film Festival’s top prize, the Golden Bear, with the best actor award also going to Liao.

So it’s no surprise the writer-director has decided to continue on that same neon-soaked path in his latest film, The Wild Goose Lake. Continue reading

Censorship of ‘One Child Nation’

Source: Daily Beast (1/3/20)
How the Truth Disappears: Chinese Censorship and My Film ‘One Child Nation’
By Nanfu Wang
Nanfu Wang, who co-directed the doc “One Child Nation” exploring China’s one-child policy, writes about how state media has scrubbed mentions of her film.

Courtesy Amazon Studios

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an experience I had as a 13-year-old vocational school student in China. Each night, every class in the school would have to watch Xinwen Lianbo, a daily news program produced by the state-run broadcaster, China Central Television. The same program was broadcast in every city in China, and in schools like mine, it was required viewing for everyone.

To ensure that each student actually paid attention to the broadcast, we were required to write down 20 of the news stories mentioned during the program—10 domestic and 10 international. At the end of the week, every student’s news notebook would be carefully inspected, and anyone who failed to properly record the news reports would be publicly shamed on “Notice of Criticism” billboards positioned around main pathways throughout the campus. I remember being very afraid of seeing my name on those billboards. Continue reading