COMM 301Spring

Discovering China Through Film

The film industry is booming in China! Explore the journey from 1976 from an artistic and political perspective
Karen Ma
Course Introduction
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Karen Ma
Karen MaM.A. University of Washington
  • Traveling
  • Singing
  • Photography
  • Reading,
  • Movie Watching- especially going to a theater
  • Dinner Parties

Discovering China Through Film

This course is accredited through Loyola University Chicago
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Course Description

This survey course will provide an overview and examination of major Chinese films since 1976, using these films as a means to help students better engage and understand the history, politics, society and economy of China in different decades of the twentieth century and beyond.

China has traveled along a convoluted course of modernization, which has often been marked by revolution and reforms. During this period, cultural producers in China have been buffeted by artistic and political imperatives; affected by the competing forces of tradition and modernism; and sought to resist and incorporate foreign (predominantly Western) influences. Thus, this course is also a case study of how the Chinese people have encountered modernity and continue to cope with its consequences.

The focus of the course will be on films made in mainland China by different generations of filmmakers from the 1980s (what is sometimes called the post- socialist period) to the present day, normally grouped under the rubric of the fifth- and-the-sixth generations of filmmakers, and those of the most recent generation. The course is arranged chronologically, but critical writing on films is thematically assigned. These may include historical and societal contexts of film productions; cinematic topics and themes (modernity, globalization, revolution, gender relationships, urbanization); the specific visual and narrative style of each film; the strategies of filmmakers in coping with state censorship, and cinematic critiques of Maoism and post-Maoist Chinese.

No previous knowledge of Chinese or any background on China is required. All films selected for the course have either English subtitles or printed scripts to follow.

Courses Outcomes

Through screening, reading, discussion, lectures and quizzes, students will:

  1. Identify dominant themes in recent films and examine what they say about China and being Chinese during a period of some of the most rapid social and economic changes in history
  2. Make connections between Chinese movies of the 20th and 21st centuries and examine their historical and social context
  3. Develop critical skills and an appreciation for modern and contemporary Chinese films and culture
  4. Gain familiarity with the Chinese movie industry and its major players and processes through the present day