Issues in International and East Asia Studies: Today's Chinese Cinema

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Markel, Stewart B.
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I offer here a compact history of the cinema in China in order to provide a basis for much of the political and social impact of today's cinema. Also included is an overview of the Beijing Film Academy, China's only film school and the largest in Asia. The students studying there today come from a variety of backgrounds and set numerous goals for themselves. While in Beijing I quickly found I could easily relate to them and spent a great deal of time at the academy. By looking at the history and current structure of the academy I was able to understand how China has traditionally trained its filmmakers. The attitudes and ideas expressed by students at the academy show what kind of filmmakers will comprise the future Chinese film industry. The last section on current issues in Chinese cinema outlines some of the debate surround the future of the art form in China. The majority of this material comes from interviews with filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival In Beijing '95, which was held during my stay in China. The questions about market forces and what audiences filmmakers should seek are fundamental to the future of Chinese cinema. Finally I offer a few short summaries of recent releases I was able to see while in Beijing. These I include to give the reader an idea of subject matter found in today's Chinese film. The very last section is a glossary of film terms with translations that I and Sophia Wong complied while attending a course at the Beijing Film Academy. This glossary was extremely helpful when talking with filmmakers and students about their craft. This project is presented as a research tool for the study of Chinese film. I offer few conclusions or opinions, rather I present the sum of my research on the subject. Chinese cinema, like any world cinema, is unique to its country of origin; the history, people, and culture of China make it one of a kind. Yet the industry is full of diversity with differing schools of thought and style, large and small studios, and well known established filmmakers as well as independent directors. All of this makes Chinese cinema difficult to categorize, rather than attempt the impossible what I give here is a description of film in China.
v, 77 p.
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