Representations of China in transnational documentary cinema

Ouyang, Jingmei (2022) Representations of China in transnational documentary cinema. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the representations of China in transnational documentary cinemas, analysing the filmmaking techniques utilised in and the political-economic discourses of a corpus of relevant films. In this thesis, I draw on Bill Nichols’s conceptual work on documentary modes to develop my analysis on the diverse modes of Sino-foreign transnational documentary films. I also employ formalist film theory to develop the analysis on cinematography styles and editing techniques. Meanwhile, by use of the concept of frame theory, I categorise the modes of visual representation in relation to ‘Powerful China’, ‘Beautiful China’, ‘Superpower of China’, ‘Amazing China’ and ‘Marginal China’ for the establishment of the structure of the thesis and its participation in the aesthetic imagination, political strategies and cultural cooperation in cinematic discourses.

The first chapter, which serves as an introduction, introduces the research questions and the structure of the thesis, and also includes the literature review and methodology. The second chapter examines the mode of Chinese-British transnational documentary, both including co-operation mode and assistance-mode. It argues that the particular techniques, such as re-enactment, dramatic editing and immersive participation, are integrated into the quality of non-fiction in documentary films, establishing the representation of ‘Powerful China’ on cultural sense. The third chapter examines the mode of Chinese-American co-production documentary and argues its representation of ‘Beautiful China’ on the combination of the approach of ethnographic film and contemporary Chinese discourse of ‘Beautiful China’. The fourth chapter examines the mode of Chinese-Korean transnational documentary based on Korean Production and argues its representation of ‘Superpower of China’ is based the discourse of ‘China Threat Theory’. The fifth chapter makes a comparative analysis on Chinese state-documentary, taking the genre of ‘industrial documentary’ as an example, and independent documentary, both transnational and non-transnational. It argues that the state-documentary inherits the cinematographic style of ‘China films’ from Joris Ivens, shaping the representation of ‘Amazing China’. It also illustrates how the independent documentary relies on the construction of personal interactions between the filmmakers and subjects in shaping the representation of ‘Marginal China’ in its depictions of Chinese modernity.

Then the thesis argues that the different cinematic representations of China from these diverse modes of Sino-foreign transnational documentary cinemas illustrate the diversity of documentary filmmaking and which demonstrates the elasticity of China within cinematic space in recent years. That is, the concept of ‘China’ can be stretched to accommodate multiple - even conflicting - perspectives, which are shaped by the socio-economic factors at play and the dominant aesthetic traditions in the countries involved in producing the films.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: This work was supported by the University of Glasgow and China Scholarship Council [CSC NO.201806990024].
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Archibald, Dr. David and Eleftheriotis, Professor Dimitris
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-83221
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2022 15:08
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2022 15:11
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83221
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/83221

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