Renegotiating Film Authorship in Cyberspace: Chinese Filmmakers, Global Fans, Politics of Participation

Project: Research project

Project Details


This book-length project aims to delineate the presence of Chinese filmmakers, or auteurs, in participatory cyberspace and analyze their negotiated status in relation to audiences’ motivations and activities. The escalating visibility of Chinese filmmakers in the global arena coincides with the advent of media technology which widens the reach of their fame beyond material constraints, yet redefining their central creative role in film. WWW platforms like IMDb, Douban, Facebook, Weibo, YouTube, and Youku facilitate audiences to rate films, write film reviews, (re)tweet film-related posts, and create parodies of famous titles, challenging the authorial intent and structure. By focusing on Jia Zhangke, Tsai Ming-liang, Wong Kar-wai, and Ang Lee, established Chinese filmmakers who are both celebrated and contentious as appearing on the Web, this study poses several questions. First, how does research on Chinese directors inform us about the changing image of an auteur in the participatory cyber-network? Second, how are Chinese auteurs’ style and vision recoded, reassessed and renegotiated in the fan exchange on the Web? Third, how do the filmmakers struggle to retain their independence and personality over cinephiles’ comments? Fourth, how do the director- viewer dynamics affect Chinese auteurs’ positioning in the global cinematic map? These questions need to be answered with the help of a systematic research of Chinese auteurs in cyberculture.

This project entails multiple research tools, which are crucial in digital humanities and film/cultural studies, to examine Chinese filmmakers’ auteurism in the cinematic-cyber nexus. The PI renders an integrated approach of fan and cultural studies, combining inquiry of politics of participation to explore director-audience dynamics. The PI also undertakes a close textual reading of fan-generated materials including ratings of films, threads of discussion, parodies and mashups videos as well as the filmmakers’ feedback and press interviews. By venturing on a mix of methods, the project reveals holistic scenarios of global Chinese cinema, disentangling the complexity of authorial identity, participatory fandom, and media technology.

Building on the thriving area of research of Chinese film studies, this project intervenes into the current debate of authorship by locating Chinese auteurs in the digital frontier, which is seriously under-studied. The analysis enriches and complicates our understanding of auteurism that has been dominated by Western theories and studied primarily within conventional director studies. The research outcome will lead to one refereed journal article and one international conference presentation, in addition to a book manuscript in progress.
Effective start/end date1/01/2130/06/23


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