“Pre-1949 Chinese Cinema” Conference

October 27, 2012

The second important event on pre-1949 Chinese cinema this year was held in Beijing’s suburb, the Miyun Reservoir area, between Oct. 18 and 19, 2012. Once again, almost all the familiar faces in the field showed up with their research, representing a range of universities and research institutions across the globe. One difference is that this conference prominently featured young scholars of Chinese cinema, from recent Ph.Ds. to even MA students. According to the organizers, the China Film Archive and the Chinese Center for Film Art Studies, a selection committee was formed to screen all the conference submissions. Each paper, after its author’s name was erased, was read by an expert group to determine the eligibility of participation, a rare practice in Chinese academia. The result of this is a thick conference paper collection with many interesting or even groundbreaking researches.

Pre-1949 Chinese Cinema Conference in Beijing, Oct. 18-19, 2012, hosted by the China Film Archive and the Chinese Center for Film Art Studies.

From the very beginning, the conference highlighted the importance of micro-histories of Chinese cinema, or 微观历史 in Chinese, emphasizing the great benefit of digging for new materials and checking factual details. If you are a cultural studies scholar with a sole focus on textual analysis and interpretation, you would probably find yourself largely sidelined or marginalized. Several papers won high praises from veteran researchers, simply because they claimed to have discovered new materials about some filmmakers and critics, or have found new evidences that would lead to changes in dates and years in the writing of Chinese film history. This “micro-approach” to Chinese cinema is probably a reflection of a written history that is marred by factual mistakes and ideological prejudices. It could be also a backlash against theory-driven subjective readings of filmic texts, represented by the cultural studies approach.

Chen Mo, Research Professor at the China Film Archive, delivered a keynote on “The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple” (d. Zhang Shichuan, 1928).

Because the conference had many parallel panels, I was only able to attend three of them after delivering my keynote on A Girl in Disguise (化身姑娘, 1936), and these panels are: “Film Theory and Criticism,” “Interaction between Chinese and International Cinemas,” and “Studies in Individual Cases”. While there were some interesting presentations, I found Chen Mo’s keynote, titled “Rethinking the Banning of The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple,” most stimulating and refreshing. Based on a careful reading and checking of materials and evidences, Chen concluded his research by saying that the banning of this first martial arts film in modern China “is the result of a co-oped conspiracy between the Nationalist Party and the Communist Party”.



October 10, 2012

ON OCTOBER 30, 2012

Asia Society Southern California’s Entertainment and Media in Asia (EMASIA) will present the third annual U.S.-China Film Summit on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM at UCLA’s Covel Commons. This three-part panel discussion will bring together prominent Chinese and Hollywood film industry leaders who will share their experiences and strategies on successfully navigating the East-West filmmaking process. This insightful and timely summit will focus on the trends and dynamics facing the U.S.-China film industry relationships and recent advances in Hollywood and China partnerships and collaborations.

The Gala Awards Dinner, also at Covel Commons, will feature keynote addresses from HAN Sanping (韩三平), Chairman, China Film Group, who will receive the 2012 China Entertainment Visionary of the Year award, and Lewis Coleman, President and CFO, DreamWorks Animation SKG, who will receive the 2012 U.S. Entertainment Visionary of the Year award. The Gala begins with a VIP reception at 6:00 PM followed by the dinner and program at 7:00 PM. China Film Group Corporation is the exclusive importer of Hollywood and International films into China. DreamWorks Animation SKG recently announced a joint venture in China to build a $350 million studio and develop a $3.1 billion cultural and entertainment district in Shanghai.

The first panel at the summit, “Year in Review in Hollywood-China Relations” will feature key players, including from the MPAA, William Feng, General Manager and Chief Representative, Motion Picture Association-China, discussing the major issues and trends that have developed over the past year.

The second panel will focus on the “Globalization of Talent,” and feature key creative talent and professional representatives. The panel will be moderated by Janet Yang, Film Producer/Cultural Ambassador and Stephen Saltzman, Partner, Loeb & Loeb and includes speakers Philip Button, Senior Vice President at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment; Larry Galper, Talent Agent at Creative Artists Agency; and Chinese talent agent WANG Jinghua.

The third panel, “New Wave of China’s Cross-Border Entertainment Investors” will feature top Chinese entertainment investors who are crossing over into international investments. Co-moderated by Peter Shiao, CEO of Orb Media Group and Bennett Pozil, Executive Vice President of East West Bank, the panel includes speakers YANG Buting (杨步亭), Chairman of China Mainstream Media Fund; Bruno (Zheng) WU, Chairman of Seven Stars Entertainment and Chinawood Global Service; and ZHAO Yifang, President of Huace Media.

To purchase tickets and for additional information on the summit, please go to the official Asia Society site.

“Rewriting Chinese Film History” Symposium

October 1, 2012

For those who are interested in Chinese film history, particularly in pre-1949 Chinese cinema, the two important events taking place in Beijing this year, one in September, the other in October (to be covered later), will be remembered for a long time.

“Rewriting Chinese Film History: A Tribute to Predecessors” Symposium, held on September 22, 2012, Beijing, Chinese Academy of Arts.

This one, titled “Rewriting Chinese Film History: A Tribute to Predecessors,” held on September 22 and organized by Shanghai University’s School of Film-TV, Institute of Film & TV Research of the Chinese Academy of Arts, and the Journal of Contemporary Cinema, is inherently contradictory and double-faced. The second part of the theme is to pay tribute to the writers and editors of the two-volume book and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of A Historical Development of Chinese Cinema, but the first part is calling for a re-evaluation and re-writing of the book, a call that was initiated in 2005 by the Contemporary Cinema journal when Chinese cinema celebrated its centennial history.

Cheng Jihua (left) and Li Shaobai (right), two living editors of “A Historical Development of Chinese Cinema” published in 1962 at the symposium.

Almost all important scholars active in Chinese film history attended the one-day symposium. It was highlighted by the rare and possibly the last appearance of Cheng Jihua and Li Shaobai, two of the three editors credited on the book’s cover. Cheng, in his 90s, made a written speech at the symposium (read by a younger scholar at the China Film Archive), firmly rejecting any notion that there is a need to re-evaluate many of the problematic judgements made in the book. Considering the fact that he was imprisoned for eight years during the Cultural Revolution because of this book, one could understand his stubbornness. But Li Shaobai, in his 80s, took another stance. He suggested history is always open to re-writing and re-evaluation, and there is a need for many histories of Chinese cinema.

Li Shuyuan, author of “A History of Chinese Silent Film,” revealing a shocking truth at the symposium behind the writing of “A Historical Development of Chinese Cinema.”

The general milieu of the symposium was celebritorial and respectful. While there were people harshly critiquing the book and its “Party/State” nature, they were generally understanding and noted it was written in a time when Party politics dominated every aspect of Chinese life. One shocking truth, at least to me as well as to many present film historians, was revealed by outspoken veteran film historian Li Shuyuan, author of much acclaimed A History of Chinese Silent Film. He used his time to call everybody’s attention to the name of the third (and the last) credited editor of the book, Xing Zuwen (already passed away), saying the book was mainly written by Xing: “It has eight chapters. Zuwen wrote seven chapters, and Li Shaobai wrote one chapter,” suggesting Cheng Jihua, the first and supposedly most important author, didn’t contribute to the writing of the book (by that time Cheng has already left the symposium). Li Shuyuan cited his close relationship with Xing Zuwen as an evidence to this claim, saying that Xing Zuwen himself, as an honest and serious man and scholar, shared this secret with him and told him not to reveal to anyone.

The symposium for sure will be remembered simply because ailing Cheng Jihua and Li Shaobai appeared together in public and it itself is historic and will be recorded in future Chinese film history books.