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China Policy Institute: Analysis

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Culture and Media

Johnnie To, Hong Kong cinema and the mainland

Written by Yiu-wai Chu.

Billed as the film to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong production company Milkyway Image, action film Three (2016) marks the return of director Johnnie To to his signature gangster movie after Drug War (2013), the first gangster film he shot entirely in Mainland China. The famous director and the company he co-founded in 1996 are walking a fine line between Mainland China and Hong Kong: For staunch supporters of To and Milkyway Image, his unexpected interim project, the stage-to-screen musical Office (2015), had just been another Mainland movie in order to “walk with two legs”: using commercial films such as rom-com Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (2011) to support the production company’s unique brand of “action thriller meets art-house cinema.” Two years earlier, his 50th film Drug War had seen mixed reviews in Hong Kong. I have argued elsewhere that this was due “the untranslatability of Milkyway-cum-Hong Kong flavour that distinguished To from other Hong Kong directors, who were assimilated into the Mainland market as a simple mélange.” Straddling their home turf and the highly profitable Mainland market, To and Milkyway Image may be emblematic of challenges faced by Hong Kong cinema more widely – and of ways to tackle them. Continue reading “Johnnie To, Hong Kong cinema and the mainland”

Recent Trends in the Distribution and Exhibition of Chinese Language Films in the UK Cinema Market

Written by Fraser Elliott and Andy Willis.

Until recently, the distribution and exhibition of Chinese language films in the UK had followed a familiar pattern for a number of decades: Like most subtitled foreign language cinema, they were bought by distribution companies specialising in arthouse fare, who would subsequently release them onto the specialised and independent cinema circuit. Here, they would vie with films from established arthouse providers in Europe, such as France and Italy, as well as other countries, such as Japan, who have traditionally found favour with cineastes. In this sector, each film released struggles to find their share of the small UK audience that appreciates global cinema. Continue reading “Recent Trends in the Distribution and Exhibition of Chinese Language Films in the UK Cinema Market”

China’s film industry: Blocked by its own Great Wall

Written by Leung Wing-Fai.

Commenting on the increasingly tight connections between China and Hollywood, Stanley Rosen observed that this was a “win-win” situation; China has the market, Hollywood has the talent. In short, mused Professor Rosen, “Hollywood has what China lacks: Storytelling ability, marketing, and distribution”. As Marvel announces plans to produce an explicitly China-oriented extension of the Captain America franchise (dubbed ‘Captain China’), I want to consider recent developments in the Chinese film industry to assess its purported deficiencies.  Continue reading “China’s film industry: Blocked by its own Great Wall”

China’s Ethnic Minority Language Film

Written by Kwai-Cheung Lo.

The emphasis on common linguistic expression in the films of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been intimately tied to anxiety and angst in a multi-national and multi-lingual state. In the mid-1950s, state-owned studios began to produce films about the 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities in order to propagate ethnic policy, foster national unity and educate mass audiences about China as a multinational country even though more than 90 percent of its population is Han. Minority nationality cinema (少数民族电影)became a common and widely-circulated term. However, China’s ethnic minority film is not exactly a genre in itself, since it encompasses many different genres including spy thrillers, adventure, war films, costume drama, musical, romance, comedy, melodrama and children’s movies. It quite often combines multiple genres within one film.  Continue reading “China’s Ethnic Minority Language Film”

Chinese film and the declining fortunes of “the Boss”

Written by Peter Hitchcock.

Spare a thought for the poor old Chinese Boss. Regularly charged with corruption and vilified on Chinese social networks like Weibo, corporate heads in China cannot seem to catch a break. Surely the captains of industry who are leading China on the road to becoming the world’s largest economy should be considered heroes, with every million and billion of yuan going into their accounts, at home or in Panama, celebrated as triumphantly serving the people? Nobody should begrudge the Boss getting wealthy—“to get rich is glorious” is central to modernization. Sure there’s income inequality, but that’s the name of the game if you want to compete globally. Isn’t it embarrassing that the Abu Dhabi Rolls Royce dealership is outselling the one in Shenyang? And why should the Boss’s children have to live in Vancouver to get a decently priced Lamborghini? If the workers of the world cannot unite at least Bosses in China should get together and urge culture to express that piling up the cash is the only way to get peasant migrant worker average wages above 3000 yuan a month (2016 figures). Is Chinese cinema showing the world who’s the Boss? Continue reading “Chinese film and the declining fortunes of “the Boss””

The Digital Humanities as an Emerging Field in China

Written by Lik Hang Tsui.

The “digital humanities” (usually translated as shuzi renwen 数字人文 in mainland China and shuwei renwen 數位人文 in Taiwan) have recently received a lot of attention in Chinese academic circles, even though it took a long time for the concept to come to the attention of mainland China universities. The first digital humanities centre in China was established by Wuhan University in 2011. It remains the only mainland Chinese member of centerNet, an international network of digital humanities research centres. Continue reading “The Digital Humanities as an Emerging Field in China”

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