Ethnic Minority Films in 21st century China

Date: Tuesday, 23 September

Venue: MYLT 101, Murphy Building, Kelburn Campus

Speaker: Dr Vanessa Frangville


More than 350 films displaying Chinese ethnic minorities have been produced in the People’s Republic China over the past six decades, among which nearly 100 were made in the last ten years. Today, ethnic minority films account for 6% of China’s film production, a level that had only be reached in the late 1950s when the State was controlling and steering the whole cultural industry towards the communist ideology. However, economic reforms in the Chinese film industry in the 2000s have resulted in an exceptionally rich and diverse ethnic minority cinema, no longer the monopoly of the State or filmmakers from the Han majority. In particular, independent cinema (i.e. cinema financed and produced independently from state-owned studios) has played a significant role in the development of new aesthetics and themes in ethnic minority films as well as in the emergence of ethnic minority filmmakers.

Concurrently, since 2010, the Chinese government has made different attempts to stimulate the production of ethnic minority films through establishing business alliances with private industry players, creating ethnic minority film festivals and supporting ethnic-minority-films-related public events. This seminar looks at the “Ethnic Minority Film Project” launched in November 2013 by the China State Commission of Ethnic Affairs to support and promote ethnic minority cinema. Based on interviews conducted in Beijing in December 2013 with filmmakers, scholars and officials, this seminar seeks to examine the Project’s stakes and objectives, as well as its possible effects on the production of ethnic minority films in the coming decade.

About the speaker

Dr Vanessa Frangville is a Lecturer in Chinese at the School of Languages and Cultures, Victoria University of Wellington. She holds a PhD in Chinese studies from the University of Lyon 3, France, and completed two postdoctoral research projects in Taiwan and Japan. Her research deals with discourses on ethnicity and nation building in modern and contemporary China, with a special focus on cinema. Her current book project looks at the history of ethnic minority films from the 1950s to the present. She also published articles on ethnic minority films, Tibet in Chinese cinema and aborigines in Taiwanese cinema.