PRISM 19.1

PRISM 19.1 (2022)

THEMED CLUSTER CHRONOTOPIA: Urban Space and Time in Twenty-First-Century Sinophone Film and Fiction

Introduction: Chronotopia: Urban Space and Time in Twenty-First-Century Sinophone Film and Fiction
By Astrid Møller-Olsen


Dialogical Representation of the Global City in Chinese New Urban and Rural-Migrant Films
By Jie Lu

Ghostly Chronotopes: Spectral Cityscapes in Post-2000 Chinese Literature
by Winnie L. M. Yee

Spatiotemporal Explorations: Narrating Social Inequalities in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction
By Frederike Schneider-Vielsäcker

Reconfiguring the Chronotope: Spatiotemporal Representations and Cultural Imaginations of Beijing in Mr. Six
By Xuesong Shao and Sheldon Lu

Take the Elevator to Tomorrow: Mobile Space and Lingering Time in Contemporary Urban Fiction
By Astrid Møller-Olsen Continue reading


Source: SupChina (6/17/22)
‘Moneyboys’: A provocative, atmospheric film about Chinese hustlers
A Taiwanese and Viennese coproduction, “Moneyboys” follows Fei, a gay sex worker, as he explores love amid his life of secrecy.
By Catherine Zauhar

Still from Moneyboys

C.B. Yi’s debut feature, Moneyboys (金錢男孩 jīnqián nánhái), is a beguiling and disturbing exploration of a Chinese community hiding in plain sight. It follows the protagonist, Fei, through the arcs of two loves, both of which have a lasting impact in dramatically different ways.

Fei (Ko Chia-kai 柯家凱) is a charming and popular hustler who starts off in the smaller leagues in the town of Yiwu. After being severely roughed up by a client, Fei’s protective lover, Xiaolai (JC Lin 林哲熹), comes to his defense and ends up fighting for his life. Once word spreads of the lover’s heroic defeat, Fei flees his home and his love — fearing his secret life will be revealed — before the law gets involved (prostitution and homosexuality are illegal in China).

We meet Fei five years later, where he now lives a far more luxurious life, still as a hustler, in the bustling mega-metropolis of Shenzhen. His home has an icy elegance reminiscent of the decor of the big house in Parasite, with items better off looked at than touched (perhaps like Fei himself). News of an ailing grandfather coupled with a traumatizing brush with the cops leaves Fei shaken, and he makes the journey back to his native fishing village. On the way, he runs into Long (Bai Yu Fan 白宇帆), who from the get-go cannot hide his long-harbored crush on Fei. Long is handsome, gawky, bright and goofy like a teenager, his demeanor the complete foil to Fei’s gentle and measured poise. When Long asks how long Fei’s staying, he responds with a noncommittal “Depends.” It’s unclear what he wants, though. What does anyone want from a homecoming? Closure? Safety? Warmth? Continue reading

China in the World review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Julia Keblinska’s review of China in the World: Culture, Politics, and World Vision, by Ban Wang. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

China in the World:
Culture, Politics, and World Vision

By Ban Wang

Reviewed by Julia Keblinska

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2022)

Ban Wang, China in the World: Culture, Politics, and World Vision. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2022, xi + 215 pp. ISBN: 9781478010845 (paper).

Ban Wang’s China in the World: Culture, Politics, and World Vision examines how the nation of China was imagined in political discourse and cultural practice vis à vis “a broad spectrum of international outlooks”—that is, conceptions of “the world”—throughout the twentieth century (7). More than a mere history of such worldly outlooks, be they late Qing reformulations of Confucian social concepts of tiānxià 天下  and dàtóng 大同 (“all under heaven” and “great unity,” respectively) or later iterations of socialist internationalism, Wang offers a serious and urgent critique of Chinese Studies and a call to political awareness at a moment when Cold War logics threaten to flatten the nuance and complexity of our field. In accomplishing this task, China in the World is an elegantly efficient volume. Coming in under 200 pages, the text is comprised of an introduction and eight chapters, the initial six of which are devoted to focused historical case studies of literary and cinematic works, while the final two are more polemical, urging an interrogation of the state of the Chinese Studies classroom and articulating the imperative to critically “use the past to understand the present” (170). Continue reading

Hong Kong’s first art-house film

Source: SCMP (6/5/22)
Hong Kong’s first art-house film, Cecille Tong Shu-shuen’s The Arch, starring Crazy Rich Asians’ Lisa Lu Yan, was ahead of its time
Cecille Tong Shu-shuen’s The Arch is an elegant psychological drama about a widow who has committed to receiving a stone ‘arch of chastity’. With its roots in a folk tale, it may have also been Hong Kong’s first ‘independent’ film, having been fully funded by the director and her family
By Richard James Havis

Lisa Lu in a still from Cecille Tong Shu-shuen’s The Arch (1970), considered to be Hong Kong’s first art-house film.

Lisa Lu in a still from Cecille Tong Shu-shuen’s The Arch (1970), considered to be Hong Kong’s first art-house film.

Martial arts films were all the rage in the late 1960s and 1970s, so it may come as a surprise to learn that the era also produced what is considered Hong Kong’s first art-house film.

The Arch, a Ming dynasty period piece directed by Cecille Tong Shu-shuen (sometimes known as Shu Shuen or Cecile Tang) in 1970, is an elegant psychological drama about a widow who has committed to receiving a stone “arch of chastity”. Although The Arch only played for three days on its original release in Hong Kong theatres, it went on to become a highly regarded work of cinema.

“The art-house look and ambitions of the The Arch set it aside from much of the commercial output of the early 1970s,” Roger Garcia, former director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival, tells the Post. “For a historical period film of the time, it lacks much of the requisite commercial action and sexual passion that were prevalent in contemporary local studio films.

“As one of Hong Kong cinema’s first women directors, Shu Shuen’s portrayal of a woman weighed down by social convention and the question of fate is more nuanced and ambiguous than those of male directors.”

Continue reading

In conversation with Mukaddas Mijit

Source: Screen Worlds (nd)
In Conversation with Mukaddas Mijit
What can mainstream filmmakers do to listen better to creators from colonised worlds?
Mukaddas Mijit discusses Uyghur cultural expression and filmmaking along with her recent work, “A Poem About Exile” (2020).
Interviewed by David Tobin (The University of Sheffield).
Produced by Screen Worlds and The University of Sheffield. n.d. [2022].

Videos featured: (A Poem About Exile) (Uighur tradition meeting Palestinian music) (Momam: the great woman, 2012) (6 meters of Etles / Brooklyn Bridge – Mukaddas Mijit & Lisa Ross) (Qumul Muqam Center 2020) (L’ IMPROMPTUE DANSANTE PAR MUKADDAS MIJIT, XAVIER COLLET, BIJANE ETEMAD-MOGHADAM) (Ahim (I cry) by Ghojimuhemmed Muhemmed 2020) Ayshemgul Memet Ensemble & Mukaddas Mijit (traditional Uyghur music and dance, Morgenland Festival Osnabrueck) (2018 Biopics Muqueddes TLS, Guayabo Collectivo)

Posted by Magnus Fiskesjö,

A New Old Play review

Source: NYT (5/19/22)
‘A New Old Play’ Review: Even the Clown Show Must Go On
Qiu Jiongjiong’s absurdist epic of 20th century China is both a movie and a play, both tragedy and farce.
By Austin Considine

Yi Sicheng in “A New Old Play.”

Yi Sicheng in “A New Old Play.”Credit…Icarus Films

Per the title, Qiu Jiongjiong’s magnificently layered historical epic, “A New Old Play,” draws as much from Brecht and Beckett as from cinematic traditions. At once tragedy and farce, it breathes new life into a story as old as civilization.

The opening scene is disorienting at first, not least for the film’s protagonist, Qiu Fu (Yi Sicheng), a well-known actor from a Sichuan opera troupe. We meet him when he is old and stooping, in a crumbling mountain village enshrouded by fog. It is China in the 1980s, and the Japanese, the nationalists and the communists have wreaked their havoc in turn. Now two raggedy demons have arrived in a broken-down bicycle rickshaw to cart Qiu off to the underworld.

Still, something feels uncanny, demons notwithstanding. The entire mise-en-scène of the film, we discover, is artificial, an assembly of stage props and hand-painted scenery. Qiu has always played the clown, shuffling from scene to scene, a hapless pauper harassed by need and political fashion. Even his wife (Guan Nan) may not miss him when he’s gone. Somehow he, like the film, maintains a sense of humor. Such is life for a poor player.

Qiu isn’t keen to leave, but his time is up — as the demons remind him, it’s no use trying to outrun fate. Also, the King of Hell is a fan, and Qiu’s failure to appear would make them look bad.

But first, let’s drink and play mahjong in purgatory, where Qiu awaits final passage to oblivion. Absurdities and indignities mount as he reminisces about a life spanning wars and famine, revolution and betrayal. The director’s cleverest trick is having also found joy there.

A New Old Play
Not rated. In Mandarin, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 59 minutes. In theaters.

The closing of the Chinese mind

Source: The Spectator (6/4/22)
The closing of the Chinese mind
By Cindy Yu

Leslie Cheung in Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine [Getty Images]

I was born in Nanjing five years after the Tiananmen Square protests. By then, records of the demonstrations and the Communist party’s brutal suppression had been scrubbed clean. So Tiananmen was not part of the national conversation when I was growing up. I only fully grasped what had happened when I visited Hong Kong in my early twenties (that would be harder now under the city’s new national security law). Tiananmen isn’t just absent from history books; the Chinese authorities keep an eye on literature and film, so anything that’s politically subversive is censored or driven underground and abroad.

One film that fell victim to this regime is Lan Yu, which I recently saw for the first time at a screening in Soho. It’s a gay love story between a poor university student and an older Beijing businessman set in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In one scene, injured young people from the Tiananmen protests are rushed away on carts and bicycles by their friends, gunshots ringing in the distance. Continue reading

Chinese Independent Cinema Observer no. 3

Dear list members,

The third issue of the Chinese Independent Cinema Observer, “The Keywords of Chinese Independent Cinema”, edited by Flora Lichaa and Yang Yishu, is now available to download from the Chinese Independent Film Archive:

This issue includes essays on a range of keywords in independent Chinese cinema by scholars, practitioners, and critics.

In addition, we have an online launch event for the issue, on Saturday May 28th at 1.30pm UK time/8.30am New York time/8.30pm Beijing time. The event, “How to Make the Invisible Visible: The Past and Present of the Dissemination of Chinese Independent Films”, will be chaired by the issue editors, and features guest speakers Cong Feng, Gan Xiao’er, Jiang Nengjie, Yang Zi, and Zhang Yaxuan. Further details on the event can be found here.

Registration for the launch is required.

Many thanks,

Luke Robinson

Animators’ Roundtable Forum

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies (4/21/22)
Animators’ Roundtable Forum: Hong Kong Animation, Zoom Webinar, May 12-14, 2022

The history of Hong Kong animation has always been translocal and transnational. It can be traced back to at least the late 1940s, when some mainland animators and cartoonists in exile like the Wan Brothers, Zhang Guangyu, Liao Bingxiong, and Te Wei made animated shorts and even experimented with the making of an animated feature film in postwar Hong Kong. But the local animated filmmaking did not begin until the 1950s, when advertising companies initiated the practice of using animation in commercials. Live-action filmmakers also began to skillfully incorporate animated special effects into martial arts cinema and experiment with animation techniques in short films. The early 1980s witnessed the rise of animated feature films with the release of Old Master Q series, which were co-productions between Hong Kong and Taiwan. Tsui Hark’s CGI feature A Chinese Ghost Story (1997) involved the professionals and studios in Japan, Taiwan, and mainland China. It was not until 2001 that a locally produced animated feature film, My Life as McDull, made its debut in Hong Kong. With the digital turn in the 1990s, independent animated filmmaking flourished, characterized by a variety of narrative and formal innovations that enriched the international film festivals around the world. Locally produced but marked by a distinct anime style with Hong Kong flavor, Kong Kee’s Dragon Delusions project (2018-present) opened a new path for Hong Kong independent animation. The co-production of Astro Boy (2009) between Hong Kong and the world also blazed a trail for Hong Kong commercial animation. Amidst the global flows of culture, can we still defend the “Hong Kongness” of Hong Kong animation in a floating city that is disappearing? Continue reading

Saturday Fiction and conversation with Lou Ye

Source: Asia Society (nd)
Saturday Fiction and Conversation with Director Lou Ye
Michael Berry

One of China’s most thought-provoking, artistically daring directors, Lou Ye, returns to the big screen with his latest film, Saturday Fiction, opening this weekend in Los Angeles and New York. Check out the film, starring Gong Li, before tuning in to an exclusive conversation between director Lou and UCLA Professor of Contemporary Chinese Cultural Studies Michael Berry.

Saturday Fiction is set in 1941, where since the Japanese occupation, China has become a wartime intelligence battlefield for the Allies and the Axis Powers. Iconic actress Jean Yu returns to Shanghai, ostensibly to appear in the play “Saturday Fiction” directed by her former lover. But what is her true aim? To free her ex-husband? To gather intelligence for the Allied Forces? To work for her adoptive father? Or to escape from war with her lover? As she embarks on her mission, with friends ever more difficult to distinguish from undercover agents, as everything spirals out of control, Jean Yu starts to question whether to reveal what she has learned about the imminent Pearl Harbor attack.

Details on the conversation, which will debut next week on Asia Society’s YouTube channel, will be forthcoming. Continue reading

Yesterday Today Tomorrow review

Source: Paratext (4/15/22)
Censorhip and Creativity: The Offense of Hong Kong Cinema
By Kuan Chee Wah
Review of Yesterday Today Tomorrow: Hong Kong Cinema with Sino-links in Politics, Art, and Tradition, by Kenny Kwok-kwan Ng (Hong Kong: Chung Hwa Book Co., 2021) (吳國坤,《昨天今天明天:內地與香港電影的政治、藝術與傳統》)

On October 27, 2021, Hong Kong legislators passed an amendment bill on the censorship law, which would allow the government to halt film productions deemed threatening to national security. The amendment was an extension of the national security law which Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in July 2020 in the aftermath of the 2019 social protests against the enactment of the criminal extraction bill. Aligned with the national security law, the newly amended censorship regulation bans films that may “endorse, support, glorify, encourage, and incite activities that might endanger national security,” and citizens who hold illegal screenings of these films will face heavy penalties and jail sentence (Yau, Leung, and Ng). Continue reading

The Exiles review

Source: SupChina (4/15/22)
‘The Exiles’: Chinese democracy activists reflect on their banishment
Filmmakers Violet Columbus and Ben Klein reopen one of the most tightly sealed boxes from China’s collective consciousness — the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre — to consider what it means to be Chinese.
By Catherine Zauhar

Illustration for SupChina by Derek Zheng

Good documentaries need to have one of two elements: a wealth of archival material, whether that be footage, documents, photographs, etc., to build a strong visual and atmospheric foundation of the past, or a compelling character to catalyze the story. The Exiles, the Sundance-winning debut feature from Violet Columbus and Ben Klein, has both.

The film opens with Columbus and Klein interviewing Christine Choy (崔明慧 ​​Cuī Mínghuì), who is most well-known for her Oscar-nominated documentary Who Killed Vincent Chen? In the New York film community, Choy is regarded as one of the brashest, most uncompromising, chain-smoking, expletive-spewing, wonderfully politically incorrect, and always-magnetic people you’ll have the pleasure of talking to. We learn through the film that Choy had ambitions to make a documentary about the exiled leaders of Beijing’s 1989 democracy movement, but the film never came to fruition due to budgetary and emotional constraints.

In 1989 she and a small crew started closely following Yán Jiāqí 严家其, a steadfast and observant intellectual, Wàn Rùnnán 万润南, the once-CEO of the tech firm Sitong, and Wu’er Kaixi (吾尔开希·多莱特 Wúěr Kāixī Duōláitè), a fiery student leader, from the day the men land on American soil. Their post-Tiananmen story is told through press conferences, demonstrations, protests, and quieter moments of conversation and rest. (One of these exiles’ friends, Chén Yīzī 陈一咨, died in Los Angeles.) This footage intimately captures how these young men grapple with witnessing their compatriots die at the hands of a government they once respected. Back then, they believed that China’s political corruption and their own exiles would be temporary, a necessary anguish before a revitalizing rebirth. Continue reading

Chen Qiufan on how sci-fi imagines the future

Chen Qiufan | 2041: How Chinese Science Fiction Imagines Our Future

We invite you to join us at an online seminar titled “2041: How Chinese Science Fiction Imagines Our Future,” featuring sci-fi author Chen Qiufan and Cornell professors Andrea Bachner and Anindita Banerjee.

Time: Thursday, April 28 at 7:30pm (EST) | Friday, April 29 at 7:30am (China Time)
Speaker:Chen Qiufan (Sci-fi writer, translator, and curator; Author of Waste Tide and AI 2041)
Discussants: Andrea Bachner (Cornell University) and Anindita Banerjee (Cornell University)
Moderator: Song Han (Cornell University)

The greatest value of science fiction is not providing answers, but rather raising questions.

Can AI help humans prevent the next global pandemic by eliminating it at the very root? How can we deal with future job challenges? How can we maintain cultural diversity in a world dominated by machines? How can we teach our children to live in a society where humans and machines coexist? Continue reading

Zhang Yimou’s Snipers misses its mark

Source: SupChina (4/1/22)
‘Snipers’: Zhang Yimou’s Korean War film misses its mark
Zhang Yimou’s “Snipers,” which Zhang co-directed with his daughter Zhang Mo, is basically last year’s Korean War blockbuster “The Battle at Lake Changjin” on a smaller scale — less bombastic, but employing more or less the same formula.
By Brian Wu

Snipers still.

Ever since serving as the director of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Zhāng Yìmóu 张艺谋 has seemingly merged his traditional role as an acclaimed filmmaker with that of a prominent culture worker. Perhaps this explains the impetus behind his latest film, Snipers (狙击手 jūjí shǒu), a “patriotic” action-thriller set over the course of a single battle during the Korean War in which a group of PLA snipers battle against a group of American sharpshooters.

Co-directed with his daughter, Zhāng Mò 张末, Zhang’s Snipers is basically last year’s Korean War blockbuster The Battle at Lake Changjin on a smaller scale — less bombastic, but employing more or less the same formula. Rambo-style “patriotic” productions such as the Wolf Warrior films and Lake Changjin, featuring elaborate action set pieces with ample explosions and bullet-time CGI, have been popular, and Snipers follows that formula.

In this telling of the “War to Resist America and Aid Korea,” emphasis is once again placed on the Chinese soldiers’ underdog struggle against a technologically and militarily superior opponent. But while the U.S. soldiers have far better equipment, they are depicted as lacking the Chinese soldiers’ fighting spirit. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Americans are shown as bumbling and incompetent, becoming increasingly more caricatured as the film progresses, almost to the point of absurdity. Continue reading

How the war in Ukraine inspired Chinese filmmakers

Source: The World of Chinese (3/22/22)
How the War in Ukraine Inspired China’s Independent Filmmakers

Photo credit: Jia Yanan

A handful of independent short films promote empathy and compassion toward war victims in Ukraine.

“Ido remember my dad,” says Mark, a 32-year-old Russian-born Ukrainian man studying in Beijing. Dressed in a yellow Adidas hoodie and sitting hunched over on his bed, he shifts his eyes away from the camera as he continues softly, “Yeah, he loved me a lot.”

Shaky archival footage flits across the screen, of 1990s Ukraine shot from moving vehicles, as Mark recalls how his Russian father used to put him on his lap while driving. “I was imagining I was driving the car,” Mark says over shots showing young people goofing off by the roadside and a blurry rainbow-colored sunset.

Jia Yanan, a freelance filmmaker and photographer, shot Mark’s reminiscences in his Beijing apartment on March 6. That was the night before the city of Nikolaev, Mark’s hometown 250 miles south of Kyiv, was bombed. Jia made the as yet unreleased short documentary A Monologue About Home, telling Mark’s story, as part of an initiative called “Against the War, In the Name of Cinema,” which she first came across in the New Asian Filmmakers Collective WeChat group on March 2. The initiative called for impromptu, low-budget, non-commercial anti-war films to be submitted within one week to “raise our voices as Asian filmmakers,” while citing United Nations figures showing the war in Ukraine had seen 536 civilian casualties between February 24 and March 1. Continue reading