Forgotten Planets: Exploring China’s Long-Running Sci-Fi Film Tradition

In the 18th and 19th centuries, when exploration was a hobby of the British upper classes, you’d regularly hear about the discovery of Brand New Civilizations — as though indigenous people’s generational histories did not pop into existence until someone with a pith helmet and a camera stumbled into the clearing. I had my own “Dr. Livingstone Presuming” moment this week, when I began to read headlines in such stalwarts of the British press as the Financial Times (as well as digital newcomers like The Verge) stating that the just-released film adaptation of The Wandering Earthmarked China’s first tentative foray into sci-fi cinema, before scuttling back and forth between comparisons with contemporary American blockbusters and classic American sci-fi quicker than you can say “White Gaze Genesis.”


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Chinese New Year Commercials

In recent year, China has seen the commercialisation of Chinese New Year on a scale it has never seen before, not just within the country, but around the world. Every company splashes red and gold packaging onto its products, and creates a “Going Home for Spring Festival” advert.


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Aquaman in China

So “Aquaman⁠”, directed by James Wan, Australian director of Malaysian Chinese descent, with Chinese actor Ludi Lin (Power Rangers) as Murk, has been doing well in box offices in China. Some might be puzzled as to why the Chinese would be drawn to a story that seems so immersed in the world of Greek mythology. Although very much unique in their own right, the world’s mythologies do share certain commonalities, and there are many elements in this film that would make it popular with a Chinese audience.


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Chinese Arts in the UK 2019

Chinese New Year is becoming one of few times of the year when the world takes an interest in Chinese culture. Whilst I have always considered this a good starting point, there is so much more to China beyond Spring Festival. Like all live cultures, Chinese culture is developing organically every second, having sprouted thick branches across different regions within China, and new branches in different communities around the world. Over the last decade or so, China is increasingly featuring in not just current affairs, but in the arts around the UK. Media that present an overview of these events from different parts of the country, through the year, is much harder to come by. So this year, I have curated my own selection, not only for China-enthusiasts, but for anyone who is interested, curious, or just fancies a little different. I hope you will find it useful.


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Crazy Rich Asians: There’s A Lot to Chu Over

“Crazy Rich Asians”, has made a huge impact in the short time since its release, not only because it’s based on an international bestseller by an East-Asian author, Kevin Kwan, but because it features an almost entirely Asian cast, (with only five white guys even getting a speaking part). In a U.S.-originated movie, it’s a rare thing for East-Asians to take centre-stage.

With screenplay by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim, this is the story of quintessentially American Chinese Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who embarks on a trip with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to visit his home, Singapore. It turns out to be the trip of a lifetime. Rachel discovers that her laid-back, low-profile boyfriend is a billionaire whose family built half of Singapore. Between head-on cultural clashes, and the brutal matrimonial realities within Asian family clans, Rachel is way out of her depth, and must sink or swim.


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Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings

As one of the major directors in Chinese cinema, any new work of Tsui Hark’s is exciting news, let alone any work released outside China and Chinese-speaking regions. As relatively more Chinese films make their way to Western cinemas, some top-bill Wuxia titles are now sharing the summer slot with Hollywood Blockbusters. This summer sees the global release of “Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings”, the third film in Judge Dee series (after “Mystery of the Phantom Flame” and “Rise of the Sea Dragon”), produced by renown and award-winning producer Nansun Shi (Infernal Affairs, Seven Swords, Chinese Ghost Story). Five years would have given this film considerable build-up, especially after the second one, which, despite the bold steps it took, was by far the weaker of the two.


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Bao: A Review

After the delays due to the World Cup, I am very happy to see “Incredibles 2” released at last. The major reason for my anticipation for seeing this film in the cinema, is the short preceding the main feature, “Bao”, the first Pixar production with a female director, and one of Chinese heritage, no less. Needless to say, my expectations were high, and this adorable work has met them.


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A Brief History of Dong Hua: Taster

It all began in 1922. Between 1922 and 45 was a period when China discovered and explored animation for itself. The main force behind early Chinese animation were three classically trained art students from Shanghai, the Wan brothers, who taught themselves the techniques of animation from studying 20s American cartoons such as Out of the Ink Well, Popeye and Betty Boop. The very first Dong Hua movie, “Uproar In the Studio”, was born in 1926 in a 7 square metre room in Zha Bei district of Shanghai.


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Have a Nice Day

When I first heard about this Chinese animation, it was in the context of bankable dissent, so I was pre-disposed to dismissing this work, but when I actually had a chance to see some of the footage, I was thoroughly impressed, and subsequently, very happy to hear it was being screened at the Genesis.


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The March of China’s Female Filmmakers

Today is International Women’s Day, or more precisely International Working Women’s Day or The United Nations Women’s Rights and International Peace Day. In China, this has been major celebration of women in all fields since 1924, when the working women of Guangzhou, influenced by the international movement, started one in China, where women united and stood up for their rights across the National and Communist divide. Feminism, however has been problematic in China, after the fall of the thousand-year-old imperial patriarchy, it has taken up as the mantra of male-dominated for most of the twentieth centuries. This year, I’m going to discuss women in the driving seat in cinema, a vital medium because it’s one of the faces of China that within everyone is familiar, to a lesser or greater extent, and a very influential art form that is flourishing and evolving rapidly within China.


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