By Robert Hamilton
Following the success of CFFUK’s symposium on Chinese Identities and in celebration of Chinese New Year, the Cornerhouse screened the Taiwanese romantic comedy You Are the Apple of My Eye (Na xie nian, wo men yi qi zhui de nu hai) directed by Giddens Ho in 2011. In support of the screening and to contextualize the film, Dr. Felicia Chan (University of Manchester and Chinese Film Forum, UK) gave an introductory talk on Popular Taiwan Cinema Beyond the Arthouse.
It was an informal and informative lecture that placed Taiwanese popular cinema outside the west’s received perception of the sad, melancholic, slow cinema of the New Taiwan cinema of Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang. While these directors are fêted in the west with little concern of the taint of commercialism, a popular, youth orientated cinema emerged from the rapid social modernisation of the 1980s. It drew on the small budget, big box office savvy of Ang Lee. It opted for a youthful promise as opposed to the artistic depression of the arthouse film. Dr. Chan argued that while it was aimed at a youth market, it dealt with a school days nostalgia that appealed to a wide range of ages that, in the words of Dr. Ming-Yeh Rawnsley (University of Leeds), ‘triggered a sense of nostalgia and reverence’. Continue reading
By Wikanda Promkhuntong
This is the second time I had the opportunity to attend the Chinese Film Forum UK’s (CFFUK) Symposium. Set up for the research and promotion of transnational Chinese film, CFFUK is an AHRC-supported joint venture between the University of Manchester, University of Salford, Manchester Metropolitan University, Confucius Institute, Chinese Arts Centre and Cornerhouse. I recall that one of the highlights of the CFFUK symposium I attended last spring (The Distribution and Exhibition of Chinese and Asian Cinema in the UK) was the dynamic between academic paper presentations and talks by those involved in the distribution and promotion of Chinese and Asian films in the UK. The sheer diversity of papers this time from established scholars from all over the world combined with a large and vibrant group of young researchers in the field was equally impressive.
Held at the Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester on 29th-30th January 2013, the symposium presented a total of eight panels with twenty-two invigorating papers that explored the subject of Chinese identities from incredibly diverse aspects. These included the historical studies of Chineseness in early cinema and animations, papers on the shifting representations of gender and class of characters and film stars in contemporary Chinese cinema, the commoditisation of Taiwan’s landscapes though cinema, the construction of Chinese public personas and works on industrial contexts particularly the transnational commercial productions and festival films. The symposium also featured a keynote speech from a revered Chinese cinema expert, Professor Chris Berry and a public film screening. The organisers remain committed to showcasing Chinese films that have not received UK distribution, so I had a chance to see Song Fang’s meditative directing debut, Memories Look At Me (China 2012) in the evening of the first day.
Imagining Chinese Cinemas in the 21st Century:
Launch Event, One Day Conference & Postgraduate Workshop
By Joe Hickinbottom
From 9th to 11th July, the University of Exeter hosted the inaugural event of the ‘Chinese Cinemas in the 21st Century: Production, Consumption, Imagination’ research project, funded by a Leverhulme Trust International Network grant and led by Exeter’s Song Hwee Lim. Organised by network partners based in universities from across the world, including in the UK, Australia, Singapore, the Netherlands, Taiwan and the US, the project aims to explore the role played by cultural products (and film in particular) in the construction of both China’s self-image and others’ perception of the region’s culture on local, national, regional and global levels. Consisting of a launch event, a one day conference and a postgraduate workshop, these three days were to focus specifically on one of the project’s main concerns: the function of imagination in the production and consumption of Chinese cinemas in the new millennium.
With a dynamic and convivial atmosphere from the start, the proceedings kicked off on the first day with a well-attended, thought-provoking keynote address by the distinguished Rey Chow. After a welcome to the conference and a brief introduction to the project by Song, Rey delivered a stimulating and somewhat challenging paper (deceptively subtitled ‘Some Basic Questions’) examining the interplay between ‘foreign observers’ and ‘native informants’ in the (pseudo-)documentary work of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Chung Kuo – Cina (Italy/China 1972) and Jia Zhangke’s I Wish I Knew (China 2010). That this event was opened by Rey’s declaration of the significance of the documentary genre in the study of modern Chinese cinemas would prove to be fitting, prematurely revealing as it did one of the major threads that were to develop over the three days.
By Dr Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley
An innovative and fruitful symposium on The Distribution and Exhibition of Chinese and Asian Cinema in the UK took place in Manchester at the end of March 2012 organised by an AHRC-funded research network, the Chinese Film Forum UK (CFFUK). It facilitated discussions between film scholars, programmers and filmmakers to reach a fuller understanding on why it is difficult for Chinese and Asian films to reach UK audiences.
The symposium tackled the issues and challenges of distribution and exhibition from three dimensions. Firstly, it built an intellectual discourse on the current paradox, i.e., on the one hand there is a growing number of enthusiasts for Asian cinema in the UK, but on the other hand, hardly any of the Asian films adored by fans find their way onto UK cinema screens. Secondly, panels were organised to illuminate the conditions and factors that practitioners take into account when they decide to feature a Chinese/Asian film in festival programmes or to schedule film screenings in a local art-house cinema. Thirdly, the symposium unravelled certain policy blind-spots especially regarding the lack of funding for British-Chinese filmmakers, which may partly explain the almost nonexistence of British-Chinese film productions in the landscape of Chinese and Asian cinema in the UK. Continue reading
By Felicia Chan
On 14 June 2012, I was invited to speak at the annual contemporary directors’ symposium at the University of Sussex. The focus of this year’s symposium was on the later films of the Chinese Sixth Generation director, Jia Zhangke.
The day kicked off with a screening of Jia’s latest film, I Wish I Knew/Haishang chuanqi (China 2010), which has not yet been released in the UK. Commissioned for the Shanghai World Expo 2010, Jia’s film predictably pays homage to the city’s tumultuous history, beginning with the signing of the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842. The signing of the treaty was a concession of Shanghai to European powers, but which also established its international cultural and commercial legacies.
By Robert HamiltonTo commemorate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Administrative Region, the Hong Kong Economic Trade Office have planned a series of events in London and here in Manchester, including the Chinese Arts Centre’s new Hung Keung exhibition and the Cornerhouse’s UK premiere of Big Blue Lake/Da Lan Hu (HK 2011) on Friday 6th July at 18:10 from award-winning director, Jessey Tsang Tsui-Shan. There will also be a post-screening Q&A with Jessey and producer, Teresa Kwong.
By Robert Hamilton
From the end of April through to the beginning of June the Chinese Arts Centre (CAC) devoted its exhibition space to a trilogy of 60-Minute Cinema shows. Transformed into a dark and relaxing environ, the CAC asked three curators from Hong Kong, Beijing and Taiwan to select a series of short films to represent the changing nature of their distinct cultures and their own filmic responses to those changes.
This unique festival of Chinese short films and animation brought some 15 films to Continue reading
By Andy Willis
I have recently returned from an intensive week of film watching across the Berlin Film Festival and European Film Market. Amongst the 28 films I saw, I crammed in a smattering of works from Mainland China and Hong Kong.
Whilst I unfortunately missed a few of the big hitters in the festival, in particular Tsui Hark’s Jet Li starring 3D extravaganza Flying Swords of Dragon Gate Inn/Long men fei jia (China 2011) and Zhang Yimou’s The Flowers of War/Jin ling shi san chai (China 2011) – both of which had poor word of mouth – I did manage to catch White Deer Plain/Bai lu yuan (China 2011). Director Wang Quan’an has a Berlin track record with his Tuya’s Marriage/Tuya de hun shi (China 2006) taking the Golden Bear in 2007, so I approached this 187 minute epic with some enthusiasm.
By Robert Hamilton
On Friday 27th January, I was invited to give an introductory talk and lead a post screening discussion of Jia Zhangke’s 24 City/24 chengji (China/Hong Kong/Japan 2008) as part of the 2012 Dublin Chinese New Year Film Festival. The film festival itself is part of the city-wide celebration of the year of the Dragon. The event was organized by Dr. Qi Zhang of the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies (SALIS) at Dublin College University and held on campus in the Helix theatre complex. It was co-hosted by Geoff Power, the director of the DCNY film festival and sponsored by Etihad Airways.