Light Sabers, Spider Women and Other Discoveries in the Digital Archives of Early Chinese Cinema
April 23, 2023, 5pm
Room RB01, Russell Square: College Buildings, SOAS, University of London
What can we learn about early Chinese film history from the expanding digital archive? Which stories, images, linguistic patterns, filmmaking techniques, and industry behaviors exhibit similarities with other parts of the world, and which appear to be uniquely Chinese? Join a talk and exhibition with film historian Christopher Rea about new discoveries from the Chinese Film Classics Project, an ongoing international effort to make early Chinese cinema history more accessible to the English-speaking world. Rea will speak about his experience working with collaborators to create a free digital archive of early Chinese films with English translations, including curatorial techniques that highlight significant features, from songs to scenes to special effects. The exhibition will showcase sights and scenes from “pre-Code” Chinese cinema, including magical swords in a martial arts flick, a blackface performance in a moral melodrama, a woman who transforms into a spider on her wedding night, a hula dance, and a mixed-genre film featuring frontal nudity.
About the Speaker:
Christopher Rea is Professor of Chinese and former Director of the Centre for Chinese Research at the University of British Columbia. He is the creator of the Chinese Film Classics Project, whose website ChineseFilmClassics.org hosts over 30 early Chinese films translated by Dr Rea and collaborators, as well as film clips, essays, links, and a free online course on early Chinese films. The website and the course are companions to his book Chinese Film Classics, 1922-1949 (Columbia, 2021), which covers fourteen films, and has a Chinese edition forthcoming. Full films and over 200 film clips (songs, gags, superlative scenes) are also viewable at the YouTube channel @ModernChineseCulturalStudies. He is also the author of The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China (California, 2015) and the co-author of Where Research Begins: Choosing a Research Project That Matters to You (and the World) (with Thomas Mullaney; Chicago, 2022). He is currently working on a second volume of The Book of Swindles (Columbia, 2017) and on a history of melons.
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