The Chinese Art Film Festival runs from 27 to 29 November 2018.
As part of the festival, Dr Xiaoning Lu, Lecturer in Modern Chinese Culture and Language at SOAS University of London is introducing one of the film screenings and is also acting as moderator for a panel discussion entitled Women through the Lens: Beyond the Mainstream.
Dr Xiaoning Lu
What is the theme of this year’s festival?
“The short answer is ‘Being a woman in China today’.
“Building on the success of last year’s Chinese Art Film Festival, Frida Jingwen Fan, my collaborator from Shanghai Art Film Federation, and I decided to put together a film festival programme focusing on women’s experiences in China today. We believe that women’s stories deserve to be told, heard and watched. The three films that will be screened in our festival, Angels Wear White, This is Life, and Girls Always Happy, tell the stories of teenage girls, pregnant women, female Chinese hipsters (wenqing) and retired women. What we can learn from these stories is not just the current state of gender in China, but also how ordinary people cope with the rapid modernisation happening in China and how they make tough decisions (sometimes, concerning life and death) in their lives. I am very excited that Frida is bringing our festival from Shanghai to London!”
Is Chinese cinema moving to more accurately represent the experiences of women in China?
“Our film festival aims to showcase the latest Chinese art cinema, which is quite different from mainstream commercial cinema. I would say that the art films that we have selected represent the experiences of women in China boldly and accurately. The production of these films was driven largely by film directors’ artistic aspiration or their strong sense of social responsibility, but seldom by profit.”
Are there many women film directors in China?
“I don’t know the exact number or percentage of women film directors among Chinese filmmakers, but women filmmakers are no stranger to Chinese audiences due to different traditions of women’s filmmaking in the People’s Republic of China. Because of socialist ideology or the so-called state feminism, women were already involved in filmmaking in state-run studios from the 1950s to the 1980s. Some of them made excellent films. Since the marketisation of Chinese cinema in the early 1990s, a few famous actresses such as Zhao Wei and Xu Jinglei have taken up cameras and their works proved quite popular. Independent cinema is another tradition.
Thanks to the digital revolution, more and more women are able to realise their dreams of filmmaking, although they still face the big challenge of finding investors for their small productions.
“At present, since the Chinese government is committed to cultivating the country’s “cultural soft power,” it is increasing its financial support to film programmes and film project financing platforms at both national and provincial levels. We are happy to see that some new talents’ maiden works are of very high quality. Girls Always Happy, the last film in our festival, is the female director Yang Mingming’s first feature film. It was selected as the only entry from the Chinese mainland to be screened at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival’s Panorama Section, known for queer, feminist and political films.”
You are providing the introduction to the film This Is Life. What is the film about?
“This is a brutally honest documentary film that chronicles four cases from a hospital that specialises in high-risk pregnancies. The film crew spent 700 days documenting 40 families at the maternity unit at that hospital, but in the end they could only pack 4 families’ stories into 104 minutes to illustrate the pains and dilemmas involved in bringing a new life into this world.”
• Tue 27 November 5PM-7:30PM
Angels Wear White (directed by Vivian Qu); Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS
• Wed 28 November 5PM-7:30PM
This is Life (directed by Chen Weijun); B202, Brunei Gallery, SOAS
• Thu 29 November 5PM-7PM
Girls Always Happy (directed by Yang Mingming); Senate House Alumni Theatre, SOAS
• Thu 29 November 7PM-8:30PM
Women through the Lens: Beyond the Mainstream (panel discussion); Senate House Alumni Theatre, SOAS
Find out more
- Centre for Gender Studies
- SOAS China Institute
- MSc Contemporary China Studies
- Modern Chinese Film and Theatre
- Chinese Cultures on Screen and Stage
- Cinema and Performance in China: Critical and Historical Approaches