“Sister” tackles male gender preference

Source: Sixth Tone (4/8/21)
Hit Film Tackles Male Gender Preference in Chinese Families
“Sister” has emerged as an unexpected holiday hit, surpassing Hollywood heavyweight “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
By Chen Qi’an

A still frame from the Chinese blockbuster film “Sister.” From Douban

A still frame from the Chinese blockbuster film “Sister.” From Douban

A new Chinese movie is casting a spotlight on a long-debated question: Should personal values be prioritized over traditional family values?

The family drama “Sister” [我的姐姐] which topped the domestic box office during the recent Qingming Festival holiday, tells the story of An Ran, a young woman who is suddenly faced with having to take care of her 6-year-old brother after their parents die in an accident. The movie follows An’s trajectory as she struggles to balance her own life choices while becoming her brother’s caretaker.

The movie, starring popular actor Zhang Zifeng as the titular character, has so far raked in over 500 million yuan ($76 million), outperforming Hollywood hit “Godzilla vs. Kong,” according to ticketing platform Maoyan. On review site Douban, “Sister” has scored 7.2 out of 10. Continue reading

Hi, Mom top-grossing film for female director

Source: China Daily (4/8/21)
Hi, Mom now world’s top-grossing film ever from solo female director
By Xinhua

Jia Ling [Photo/Mtime]

China’s tear-jerker film Hi, Mom has overtaken American fantasy Wonder Woman to become the world’s top-grossing film ever from a solo female director.

The maiden directorial project of comedian and actress Jia Ling saw its cumulative box office reach 5.396 billion yuan ($822.87 million) as of early Tuesday afternoon and surpass that of the 2017 superhero film from Patty Jenkins, according to the China Movie Data Information Network.

Hi, Mom is currently the top earner of this year in China, as well as globally. It is the second highest-grossing film ever at China’s box office, outshone only by the 2017 Chinese action-adventure film Wolf Warrior 2 that raked in a total of 5.69 billion yuan. Continue reading

Countering Xinjiang backlash with a musical

Source: NYT (4/5/21)
China Tries to Counter Xinjiang Backlash With … a Musical?
The movie is part of Beijing’s wide-ranging new propaganda campaign to push back on sanctions and criticism of its oppression of the Uyghurs.
By Amy Qin

A Chinese government propaganda sign with slogans reading “Forever following the Party” and “China’s ethnicities, one family” in Aksu, Xinjiang, last month. Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

In one scene, Uyghur women are seen dancing in a rousing Bollywood style face-off with a group of Uyghur men. In another, a Kazakh man serenades a group of friends with a traditional two-stringed lute while sitting in a yurt.

Welcome to “The Wings of Songs,” a state-backed musical that is the latest addition to China’s propaganda campaign to defend its policies in Xinjiang. The campaign has intensified in recent weeks as Western politicians and rights groups have accused Beijing of subjecting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang to forced labor and genocide.

The film, which debuted in Chinese cinemas last week, offers a glimpse of the alternate vision of Xinjiang that China’s ruling Communist Party is pushing to audiences at home and abroad. Far from being oppressed, the musical seems to say, the Uyghurs and other minorities are singing and dancing happily in colorful dress, a flashy take on a tired Chinese stereotype about the region’s minorities that Uyghur rights activists quickly denounced. Continue reading

Global Storytelling–cfp

Dear colleagues,

We are writing to announce a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal, Global Storytelling: Journal of Digital and Moving Images, founded by Editor-in-Chief Ying Zhu, edited at Hong Kong Baptist University, and published at University of Michigan. The journal invites submissions that engage with the affect (emotional engagement) and effect (social impact) of audiovisual storytelling across all audiovisual platforms and encompasses multiple methodological approaches. For more info see our temporary journal homepage here.

You can find our open call for papers here. Please submit through this web portal (or email gstjournal@hkbu.edu.hk).

We also invite submissions for a special issue on serial narrative, entitled “Streaming and Seriality”, described here.

If you are interested in being our peer-reviewers, please email your name, a link to a CV or webpage describing your background, and a list of topics you are interested in and qualified to review to gstjournal@hkbu.edu.hk

We look forward to hearing from all!

Dorothy Lau, Managing Editor
Jonathan Frome, Associate Managing Editor

Taiwanese-dialect Cinema of the 1960s film series

Starting this Friday, the Harvard Film Archive will be streaming the film series Cities of Love and Sadness: Rediscovering Taiwanese-dialect Cinema of the 1960s—a collaborative effort with students from Harvard’s East Asian Film & Media Working Group who have curated the series and also provided the text and video introductions for the four recently restored films. With a focus on the shifting roles of modern Taiwanese women, the “urban melodramas” will screen in two programs on the HFA Eventive page, joined by a third program of lectures and discussions which add vital context to these thrilling rediscoveries.

Program One will screen this Friday March 26 through Thursday April 1, and Program Two will be available Tuesday March 30 through Monday April 5. Program Three—featuring the lectures and discussions—will remain available throughout the series. Log on to Eventive and enjoy these shows free of charge!

Shao-Hung (Tim) Teng
PhD Candidate, East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Harvard University

Rediscovering Early Chinese Cinema

Topic: Rediscovering Early Chinese Cinema: From the Archive to the Internet 
Speaker: Christopher Rea
Date and time: PST:6:00-7:30 pm on April 8, 2021
HKT:10:00-11:30 am on April 9,2021
Talk Venue: Zoom
Language: English
Inquiry: +852 34008930
Registration link


Viewers around the world are now discovering that, over eighty years ago, Chinese cinema had light sabers. And copies of Mickey Mouse. And full frontal male nudity. What other discoveries – besides novelties of a bygone age – lie in store for historians rediscovering Republican-era cinema, or people delving into Chinese film history for the first time? The Chinese Film Classics project, begun before and accelerated by the pandemic, is aimed at enabling a new generation of global audiences to explore Chinese film history in new ways. Working with a corpus of several score extant films, circa 1920s-1940s, Christopher Rea has been translating both famous and obscure cinematic works and making them available open access in full or in part (so far as copyright and fair use allow), via the YouTube channel Modern Chinese Cultural Studies and the website chinesefilmclassics.org. A key feature of this resource is the inclusion of playlists of hundreds of songs, special effects, animations, significant scenes, how-tos, and other thematically-arranged film clips, which enable viewers to navigate the archive of early Chinese cinema based on their own interests. Another is the production of a full online course on “Chinese Film Classics,” which discusses eleven masterpieces in the contexts of Chinese history and global filmmaking. This talk presents new web-based approaches to film research and pedagogy, and invites the participation of film scholars and film archives in further developing this open-access initiative. Continue reading

Backlash in China against Chloé Zhao

Still waiting to find out–and really would like to know–who is responsible for the censorship of the Filmmaker magazine article? Was it some American company or agent or film industry, which would be a brutal new sign of the Hollywood kowtowing to China … or was it selfcensorship, or a combination of all of the above? Or was it direct Chinese state intervention somehow? See here for a side by side comparison of the 8 year old censored Filmmaker paragraph mentioned by the NYT, on China as a place full of lies.–Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

Source: NYT (3/6/21)
In China, a Backlash Against the Chinese-Born Director of ‘Nomadland’
Days after winning a Golden Globe for the film, Chloé Zhao was pilloried online for past remarks about China.
By Amy Qin and Amy Chang Chien

Chloé Zhao, the director of “Nomadland,” at the drive-in premiere of the film last year in Pasadena, Calif., last year. Credit…Amy Sussman/Getty Images

When Chloé Zhao won the Golden Globe for best director for her film “Nomadland” last Sunday, becoming the first Asian woman to receive that prize, Chinese state news outlets were jubilant. “The Pride of China!” read one headline, referring to Ms. Zhao, who was born in Beijing.

But the mood quickly shifted. Chinese online sleuths dug up a 2013 interview with an American film magazine in which Ms. Zhao criticized her native country, calling it a place “where there are lies everywhere.” And they zeroed in on another, more recent interview with an Australian website in which Ms. Zhao, who received much of her education in the United States and now lives there, was quoted as saying: “The U.S. is now my country, ultimately.”

The Australian site later added a note saying that it had misquoted Ms. Zhao, and that she had actually said “not my country.” But the damage was done. Continue reading

Taiwan Lit–cfp

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Taiwan Lit!

We are excited to circulate Calls for Submissions for two new series in our journal’s Special Topic section. These series are guest-edited by Laura Jo-Han Wen and Mao-shan Huang, respectively, on the following themes: “Taiwan in Visual Culture and Transmedia Representations” and 「《侯孝賢的凝視:抒情傳統、文本互涉與文化政治》書評論壇」.

As we continue developing and improving, we have recently added two new pages to the Taiwan Lit website, “Contributors” and “Archive.” You may now access a contributor’s bio either through the navigation panel or by clicking on the author’s name at the top of the posts. The “Archive” stores our past newsletters, in which you can view the tables of contents from all the back issues.

Yours truly,

Taiwan Lit Editorial Team


Taiwan Lit 向讀者問候!

我們很高興在此為Taiwan Lit 的兩個新專輯發佈徵稿啟事。這兩個專輯分別由客座主編溫若含及黃茂善所籌備,主題為:“Taiwan in Visual Culture and Transmedia Representations” 和 「《侯孝賢的凝視:抒情傳統、文本互涉與文化政治》書評論壇」。 Continue reading

‘Hi Mom’ comedy about death and parenthood

Source: The Guardian (2/25/21)
Hi Mom: comedy about death and parenthood becomes one of China’s biggest film hits
Written by and starring comedian Jia Ling, the film has started a conversation about mother’s love and women’s identity
By Helen Davidson in Taipei

Audiences are cramming into Chinese cinemas to watch the sentimental comedy Hi, Mom

Audiences are cramming into Chinese cinemas to watch the sentimental comedy Hi, Mom Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

A Chinese comedian’s directoral debut about a woman who travels back in time to see her dead mother has become the fourth highest grossing film in the country’s history and the highest ever for a female director.

Jia Ling’s Hi Mom opened a fortnight ago and has drawn ticket sales of more than 4.5bn RMB ($700m US), according to box office tracker Maoyan. It is the fastest any Chinese movie has sold that much, the tracker said.

Jia wrote, directed and starred in the film, described as a tearjerker comedy, as a tribute to her own mother, who died when Jia was 19. The film has sparked a conversation in China about women, motherhood and parenting.

Hi Mom follows the story of young woman, Jia Xiaoling, whose mother dies in a car accident in 2001. The character, who feels she hadn’t been a good enough daughter, travels back in time to 1981, determined to meet her mother and help give her a better life, including by attempting to set her up with a different man. Continue reading

Inaugural Conference of the Association for Chinese Animation Studies

Dear Colleagues,

We will kick off the online Inaugural Conference of the Association for Chinese Animation Studies at 9am on March 1 (Monday, Hong Kong time). The conference is open to the public for free. You are cordially invited to attend the conference.

Here is the conference program.

Here is the registration page.

We hope to see you soon on March 1.


Daisy Yan Du
Associate Professor
Division of Humanities
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Hauntological Aesthetics in Grandma and Her Ghosts

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies (2/21/21)
Hauntological Aesthetics in Taiwanese Animation Feature Grandma and Her Ghosts (1998)
By Li Guo

Fig 1: A still from Grandma and Her Ghosts, 1998

In her recently published monograph Puppets, Gods, and Brands: Theorizing the Age of Animation from Taiwan, Teri Silvio insightfully observes that for the author, the animation model could also be utilized to “illuminate cultural logics anywhere, and to see how specific local cultural traditions make sense of and contribute to global transformations.”[1]  Further, Silvio observes that “recent transformations of Taiwanese animation practices offer alternative (and not just reactive) concepts of animation in the broader sense, and thus, alternative ways of imagining and bringing into being the Age of Animation.”[2] Among the many understudied animation works that Silvio discusses, the classic Taiwanese animation feature Grandma and Her Ghosts (1998), directed by Wang Shau-di, is mentioned as a successful example representing “folk Daoist magic with an environmental theme.”[3] As Silvio observes, in this animation, “Daoist magic is framed, not within the wuxia genre, but within a nostalgic family drama about a boy from the city visiting his grandmother in the countryside.”[4] Building on Silvio’s ground-breaking work, this essay explores the hauntological imaginations in this seminal animation film. Animated cartoons, from an Eisensteinian point of view, could “return the reviewer to a pre-logical state, to the realm of sensuous thought.”[5] Eisenstein terms animation’s abilityto articulate “freedom from ossification” and take on nascent and dynamic forms of expression as “plasmaticity.”[6] The potential of animated cartoons to bespeak the transgressive and the metaphorical, furthermore, invites an engaged discussion of hauntological aesthetics in animation films representing ghosts, with a focus on Grandma and Her Ghosts.[7] Continue reading

Boredom propels box office sales

Source: NYT (2/16/21)
A Bored China Propels Box Office Sales to a Record
“Detective Chinatown 3” received tepid reviews, but Covid-19 travel restrictions drove many to the movies when they might have been journeying to their hometowns instead.
By Amy Qin

“Detective Chinatown 3” raked in a record-breaking $397 million over three days in China, according to estimates, as millions went to movies there during the Lunar New Year holiday. Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Hundreds of millions of people are stuck in cities around China during this Lunar New Year holiday, as coronavirus restrictions put a halt to a travel season that is usually the world’s largest annual migration. Instead, they are going to the movies — and powering a blowout resurgence at the box office.

“Detective Chinatown 3,” the latest installment in a long-running buddy cop series, raked in an estimated $397 million over three days, according to Maoyan, which tracks ticket sales in the country. That set a world record for the largest opening weekend in a single market. The previous record-holder, “Avengers: Endgame,” took in $357 million in its weekend opening in the United States and Canada in 2019.

The strong showing was a forceful reminder of the power of the Chinese consumer. While the Chinese economy has come roaring back as the country has largely tamed the coronavirus, shoppers and moviegoers have been slower to open their wallets. Continue reading

100 Films to Understand China

Source: Radii (2/2/21)
100 Films to Watch to Help You Understand China
From martial arts epics and animated classics, to pop culture fare and gripping documentaries – these films will help you better understand China

The history of cinema has shadowed the history of modern China, turning a lens on more than a century of radical upheavals that have given form and substance to the People’s Republic as it stands today. In the spirit of exploring this vast and complex country through the layer of its big-screen output, RADII presents our list of 100 Films to Understand China. This is not a ranked list of 1-100 — we’re not trying to tell you the 100 “best” or “most important” films to come out of China. Our goal is to give a round and deep profile of the country through the medium of films made here in the last 100 years or so.

This list is a syllabus of movies across the spectrum of time, space and quality that, taken together, provide a snapshot of today’s China, the forces that shaped it, and the directions in which it’s moving looking forward. We’re focusing primarily on films made in mainland China, since these come from a different cultural context and industrial framework than films made in Hong Kong or Taiwan. Continue reading

Philospher King: Lee Teng-hui’s Dialogue

Source: Taipei Times (1/21/21)
Film Review: Philosopher King: Lee Teng-hui’s Dialogue
This bizarre ‘documentary’ featuring a fictitious Lee Teng-hui conversing with a suicidal Japanese schoolgirl presents a grossly biased, Japan-centric view of Taiwanese history that overshadows the former president’s inspiring message
By Han Cheung / Staff reporter

Momoka plays a suicidal schoolgirl in the film Philosopher King: Lee Teng-hui’s Dialogue. Photo courtesy of atmovies.com

This reviewer almost walked out of the theater in disgust after Philosopher King: Lee Teng-hui’s Dialogue spent the first 40 minutes glorifying Japanese colonial rule. It’s beyond tacky to use an imaginary late president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to tell a cynical, suicidal Japanese schoolgirl to be proud of her country despite its historic atrocities due to its achievements in Taiwan, and calling them acts of honesty and compassion.

Yes, Japan made great improvements to Taiwan and the life of its people in its quest to create a model colony out of a disease-riddled, poorly managed land. But if that was purely the case, there wouldn’t be countless uprisings and a continuous anti-colonialism movement that persisted until the Japanese forcefully clamped down on dissidents during the last decade of its rule.

None of this is mentioned at all. The only inkling that there was any resistance is regarding the Aborigines, but only under the context that they later changed their hearts and formed the Takasago Volunteer force during World War II, with zero reference to the many bloody revolts and large-scale campaigns the government undertook to “pacify” them. Continue reading

Method as Method review

Source: Cha: An Asian Literary Journal no. 46 (1/15/21)
By Liang Luo

Carlos Rojas (special issue editor), Method as Method, V16: N2 of Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature. Duke University Press, 2019.

Twenty years ago, as a graduate student newly arrived in the United States from mainland China, I was propelled to wrestle with issues such as “Chineseness as a theoretical problem”, “the ethnic supplement”, “the logic of the wound”, and “the hegemony of Mandarin”, as discussed by Rey Chow in her introduction to Modern Chinese Literary and Cultural Studies in the Age of Theory. Many of the issues raised in that volume still resonate in the field today, not least in the recent revamping of the Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese (established in 1997) into Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature (inaugurated in 2019). As the second issue and the first special issue of the journal, Method as Method not only actively intervenes in the ongoing debate on theory and modern Chinese literature, but also energises the field with fresh insights, signalling a “methodological turn” in modern Chinese studies.

Taking Lu Xun’s work as its starting point, Carlos Rojas, in his editor’s introduction to the volume, titled “Method as Method”, proposes to denaturalise both theories and objects and attend to their mutual formations by inviting us to focus on methodologies. Here method is presented as a way to enable objects and theories to speak to each other in productive ways. In his essay “Translation as Method”, Rojas tests this promise by reading translation as a method for negotiating not between different languages or dialects but rather between difference voices. This translational approach, he argues, offers a way of examining the possibilities and limits of fictional writing when it attempts to manifest the voices of socially marginalised figures. For Rojas, both Lu Xun and Yan Lianke attempt to grant their readers a voice or a vision they want to convey but they themselves may not share or have access to (232). He further argues that a similar translational framework may be at work when critics attempt to access fiction’s own attempts at rendering these marginalised voices. Continue reading