Documentary as alternative practice: Situating contemporary female filmmakers in Sinophone cinemas

Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Women's documentary filmmaking in Sinophone cinemas has been marginalized in the film industry and understudied in film studies scholarship. The convergence of neoliberalism, institutionalization of pan-Chinese documentary films and the historical marginalization of women's filmmaking in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the People's Republic of China (PRC), respectively, have further perpetuated the marginalization of documentary films by local female filmmakers. The orientalizing gaze from the global north does not take into account local women's struggle in the industry whereas the local male-dominant industry in each region is strongly tied to and upheld by different discourses of nationalism. By addressing multiple layers of hegemony, my research examines the local and global impact on female documentary filmmakers in the above three regions since the 1980s and the ways in which they adjust their modes of production while continuing in their works to resist dominant ideologies that have shaped mainstream national/regional film culture. Drawing from production studies and feminist film criticism, I point out that each production trajectory reflects changing political systems, institutions and resources available over time. Female documentary filmmakers' interpretative and communicative power have rewritten the traditionally male-dominant and neo-national narratives of film history and industry. Since the 1980s, Taiwanese female documentary filmmakers have carved out alternative representations during a time when defining the meaning of a national cinema was an urgent task. Hong Kong female documentarians share a consistently radical and humanistic concern regarding gender and ethnic diversity without resorting to political or cultural essentialism or antagonism. Documentary films by women in the PRC expose the incongruence between the state's agenda and the lived reality of Chinese women. Sinophone female documentarians' radical resistance does not only reside in their works but in their filmmaking practices, which foreground the periphery as the site in which place-based and community-based stories and identities are shaped and told.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Leung, Helen Hok-Sze
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