Organized by the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Comparative Literature, the 10th Asian Cinema Studies Society (ACSS) conference was held at HKU from March 16 through 21, 2012. ACSS is a loosely connected network of scholars who come from a variety of different countries and disciplinary backgrounds with a similar interest in Asian cinema, a term broadly defined but with a strong emphasis on East Asian cinemas. The previous conference was held in Beijing and Shanghai, thanks to the great financial and logistical support from Beijing University and Shanghai University.
I was at the conference and presented a paper on cinema’s participation in the “myth-making” of a “re-globalized” Shanghai. It was a great event if your intention is to socialize with the like-minded people and to reconnect with your old friends. As far as intellectual stimulation is concerned, it is mediocre at best, as the conference lasted for five days and had about 50 panels. With the exception of the organizers, I doubt any single participant had sat through the whole event. It seems there were no screening process at all with regard to paper selections. Some of the panels were redundant and many papers did not fit their panel themes. HKU did a good job in sponsoring the event, but in terms of logistics, it was poorly executed.
Based on a casual reading of the paper abstracts printed in the program, I don’t know how I would respond if someone asks about the current status of the field called “Asian cinema studies”. Is it facing a crisis because it is too diverse, too under-defined, and too loose in academic rigor? Or, is it a good sign that shows Asian cinema is attracting more and more people from different backgrounds and with different interests? I don’t know. One thing is for sure, however. Conferences like this will remain to be an intellectual game played solely by the academic circle, and the film industries of Asia will continue to encounter the same problems no matter they listen or do not listen to the voices expressed here.