BA Film Studies and East Asian Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Transnational Chinese Cinemas

Unit code DRAM20021
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Drama
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course will introduce students to the study of transnational Chinese cinemas, and focus primarily on representative Chinese-language cinemas that have crossed into international markets, locating them in the context of their social and historical environments in order to clarify the cultural boundaries they seek to negotiate. Students will be introduced to and asked to critically consider ideas of cultural and national identities, diaspora, representation and self-representation, and cultural translation. The syllabus will cover historical and contemporary issues relevant to the construction of a ‘Chinese’ identity as it is contextualized by the political formations of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, as well as the wider Chinese diaspora. The films will be studied in terms of their stylistic choices (mise-en-scene, cinematography, point of view, music, linguistic diversity), and the literacies demanded of the spectator.



Pre-requisite units

Any L1 core Drama Study or Film module


Co-requisite units

Any L2 core Drama Study or Film module – Practitioners in Context 1; Practitioners in Context 2; Screen, Culture & Society



- to consider the historical, social, cultural and political constructions of ‘Chinese’ identities in transnational Chinese cinemas

- to consider the various conceptions of ‘transnationality’ with regard to the production, distribution, exhibition and reception of Chinese cinemas classified as ‘transnational’

- to rethink notions of ‘the national’ and ‘national cinemas’ through the examples of Chinese cinemas


Indicative syllabus (representative only – not all of the topics listed below may be covered every year):


1. Introduction: The problem with ‘Chinese’-ness

2. Cinema of the Fifth Generation: Art, politics, and ambiguity

3. Cinema of the Sixth Generation: The Urban Generation

4. Hong Kong cinema: History, Place and Identity

5. Hong Kong cinema: Post-1997

6. Taiwan New Cinema: History and Identity

7. Contemporary Taiwan cinema

8. Overseas Chinese: Immigrant Nostalgia

9. Transnational Chinese Cinema: Globalisation and the marketplace

10. Hollywood Looks East/The Rise of the Chinese blockbuster

Teaching and learning methods

The course will be taught via:


-          Lectures

-          Small group discussions and exercises

-          Screenings

-          Designated consultation hours


The course unit will be complemented by a Blackboard site that conforms to minimum requirements including a course handbook, weekly course breakdown, provision of reading material, reading lists. Supplementary material from workshops will be added as appropriate. The blackboard site will be prepared and available to students at least one week prior to the beginning of the first teaching week each semester.


Knowledge and understanding

  • contextualise the history of transnational Chinese cinemas within an international frame
  • analyse the aesthetics of transnational Chinese cinemas and their modes of address
  • develop an understanding of how the questions raised in the study of transnational Chinese cinemas are applicable to wider questions of identity construction and representation in the filmic media
  • read screen texts across genres and national industries and wider socio-historical contexts
  • apply theories and secondary readings critically to their understanding of screen texts

Intellectual skills

  • develop a critical language for analysing and evaluating narrative content and aesthetic forms in screen media within wider socio-historical contexts
  • conduct in-depth research into screen media and their histories
  • apply theoretical readings to questions of screen production, exhibition and reception

Practical skills

  •  conduct close textual analysis of screen texts
  •  construct a persuasive argument in clear language, grounded in research
  •   work individually and collaboratively with other members of the group
  • critical writing skills
  • poster design and presentation

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively with others about intellectually demanding concepts, topics, materials
  • demonstrate an ability to draw with accuracy, focus, detail and precision on complex materials in independent and group work
  • demonstrate an ability to effectively present – through discussion and in writing – complex topics, drawing convincingly on oral, written and visual media as appropriate to the topic

Employability skills

Employability skills that students can expect to gain from successful completion of this module include: ¿ a good level of critical thinking and problem-solving skills ¿ an ability to develop detailed, planned and multi-layered approaches to tasks ¿ an ability to work productively as part of a group and independently in learning environments that present complex challenges ¿ an enhanced ability to effectively adapt self-presentation to different audiences/contexts, especially when communicating complex topics

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Academic poster


Balance of visuals and text, as appropriate




3000-3500 words



Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Essay - written


Poster – written


Consultation on presentation and essay plans - oral



Recommended reading

Berry, Chris, ed. (2003) Chinese Films in Focus: 25 New Takes. London: BFI.

Lim, Song Hwee and Julian Ward, eds. (2011) The Chinese Cinema Book. London: BFI.

Lu, Sheldon Hsiao-peng, ed. (1997) Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Lu, Sheldon H. and Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh (2005) Chinese-Language Film: Historiography, Poetics, Politics. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

Vitali, Valentina and Paul Willemen, eds. (2006) Theorising National Cinema. London: BFI.

Zhang, Yingjin (2004) Chinese National Cinema. New York: Routledge

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Felicia Chan Unit coordinator

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