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Panel B: Chinese Cinema

Location: Rm. 1009

Sirui Li, “Rise and Fall: An Analysis of Omnibus Films in Recent Chinese Cinema”

Graduate Student, Duke University

At significant historical moments, shooting films as a tribute to the nation and naming these films “tribute films (献礼片)” is a unique phenomenon in Chinese cinema. In 2019, My People, My Country (2019), a tribute film celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, received extremely positive responses upon its release, achieving both box office success and critical acclaim. In the following two years during the National Day holidays, My People, My Homeland (2020) and My People, My Parents (2021) were released subsequently. These three films are all omnibus films (集锦片) composed of short segments directed independently by different directors. However, even though both My People, My Homeland (2020) and My People, My Parents (2021) combined the aim of paying tribute with the omnibus strategy, they failed to continue the miraculous success of My People, My Country (2019), facing a gradual decline in both box office and critical reception year by year, until the series concluded in 2022——The rise and fall of omnibus films in China in recent years is the starting point for this essay. From my perspective, the phenomenal success of “My People, My Country” stemmed from the political needs of pointillistic narrative of New China’s history, perfectly aligns with the omnibus strategy. Additionally, it is bolstered by the rich political context of the 70th anniversary of the nation’s founding. The film not only successfully evoked the public’s collective memory and emotional connection to the national history but also fulfilled the political task of constructing and reinforcing the concept of the “motherland.” When My People, My Homeland (2020) and My People, My parents (2021) lost such a political context, their decline was almost inevitable. This paper attempts to analyze this series of omnibus films, combing with an examination and comparison of other omnibus films in world film history, to discover the similarities and differences in the use of omnibus strategies in film creation between different countries, as well as the unique aspects of Chinese omnibus films.

Xinming Liao, “The Promise of Transparency: Glass, Gaze and Gender Performance in Early 20th-Century Shanghai and Hong Kong Cinema and Literature”

Graduate Student, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill

The scholarship on audio-visual representations of Chinese Left-wing Cinema Movement (1932-1937) is largely disconnected from the material milieu. One exception is Bao Weihong’s Fiery Cinema, which teases out how Left-wing cinema pursues a critical spectatorship challenging the claim of transparency embodied in international architecture and the display of commodities. This paper will build on Bao’s scholarship yet complicate the understanding of cinema in the 19030s by delving into how glass, synonymous with transparency and vision, played a pivotal role in shaping gender dynamics on and off the screen. To do so, it conducts a detailed analysis of two seminal films: “Spring in the South” (1932) directed by Chusheng Cai, and “Rouge and Powder Market” (1933) directed by Shichuan Zhang. These films are examined for their different representation of women—as objects under the male gaze through transparent mediums and as active viewers themselves who challenge their objectified status. The analysis extends to the novella “Love in the Fallen City” (1943) by Eileen Chang, a writer deeply influenced by cinema. Her work not only presents gender performativity in the mirror but also questions the transparency promised by glass mediums. The paper argues that while left-wing cinema initially perpetuated nationalist gender norms through visual transparency, it also served as a powerful field for negotiation and subversion, inspiring the emergence of women as autonomous agents and challenging the normative perception of gender and glass.

Wanyao Liu, “Title: Unveiling Ecological Fragility: Time Characteristic in Chinese Sci-fi Films”

Graduate Student, Duke University

Keywords: Chinese sci-fi films, time, ecology

Abstract: In recent years, Chinese sci-fi films have paid more attention to the topic of the fragility of the natural environment from an ecological perspective. The films utilize the power of cinema to capture and preserve time, presenting ecological landscapes from different time periods, and documenting China’s unstable and fragile ecological system in the face of extreme natural disasters, such as a frozen Shanghai and a submerged Beijing. In these sci-fi films, China borrows technology to create a history towards the future, with advanced transportation and space technology building a positive worldview. On the other hand, however, sadness and amazement about changes in ecological landscapes also form part of the mood of the movie. Why does the ecological landscape in Chinese sci-fi films show such vulnerability? Why do sci-fi films evoke a sense of “loss” through these scenes? This article will introduce Deleuze’s theory of the “time image” and Scott McDonald’s discussion of eco-cinemas that record nature. Base on that, the article will try to argue that the ecological image in Chinese sci-fi films is a subconscious symptom that reacts to a fast-changing China by documenting a fading part of China’s history. By analyzing the film texts and combining two aspects (environmental nature and cultural memory), we will explore the relationship between science fiction films’ expression of ecology (space), and constructed history (time), and why they are able to unleash great emotional power in documenting China’s environmental changes. Ultimately, the article will endeavor to provide cultural and sociological additions to science fiction film studies.