Chinese Cinemas (1896-1996) and Transnational Film Studies
Sheldon Hsiao-peng Lu
This volume of essays is a collective rethinking of the national/transnational interface in Chinese film history and in film studies and cultural studies at large. The contributors come from the various disciplines of Chinese history, Chinese literature, comparative literature, cultural studies, English, and film studies. We embark on an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural venture into a topic of shared interest. The occasion for such a project is the globalization of Chinese cinemas in the international film market and the rapid rise of Chinese cinema studies in Western academia. The entrance of Chinese cinemas in the international film community prompts us to closely examine the nature of Chinese "national cinema," the advent of "transnational cinema," the relation of film to the modern nation-state, the nexus between visual technology and gender formation, and film culture in the age of global capitalism after the end of the Cold War.
Chinese cinemas cover a broad geographic and historical terrain, including Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and to some extent overseas Chinese communities. Asserting themselves boldly on the world stage since the mid 1980s, Chinese filmmakers have captured numerous major international film awards in recent years, and the international following for Chinese films grows annually. With this increasing popularity, the Chinese film industry has attracted a sizable amount of foreign capital and has been involved in frequent joint productions. With internationalization on this scale at both production and consumption levels, the issue of what actually constitutes Chinese cinema comes to the forefront-is it film produced by Chinese for Chinese? Assuming that some consensus on the nature of Chinese cinema can be reached, are there characteristics of this cinema that draw upon Chinese deep culture and set it apart from the Hollywood phenomenon? How reliably can these characteristics be perceived and interpreted by the international film community, and to what extent can these characteristics inform and influence the international dialogue on the meaning of film?
When I reflect on the development of a century of Chinese cinemas, a