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Film festival focused on Chinese culture in Europe aims to encourage new public debate

A film festival dedicated to movies about Chinese culture in Europe has been backed by an expert scholar from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

Dr Hiu Man Chan, Lecturer in Creative and Cultural Industries, has announced that the hybrid festival, titled Odyssey: A Chinese cinema season, will open at the Picturehouse cinema in London and Edinburgh on Tuesday 10 May, giving people a chance to learn about Chinese culture (both domestic and diasporic) in Europe.


Featuring a showcase of more than 60 films and 10 discussion panels dedicated to topics about film collaborations between the UK and Greater China, as well as exclusive Q&As, the festival will be launched with an opening film to premiere in the UK; Hard Love – a feature documentary that reveals five single Chinese women and their unique views on love. The festival is organised by a team of young talents under Dr Chan’s guidance and support.

Dr Chan, one of the few academics in the UK who specialises in international film diplomacy between the UK and Greater China, has backed the festival through her unique non-profit organisation, UK-China Film Collab (UCFC). It was developed from a research project initially funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in 2019 with the aim of inspiring and inventing film-related collaborations and cutting-edge debates between the two countries.

Since its inception founded in 2020 during the pandemic, the organisation has to date trained more than 20 young talents and engaged with over 250,000 people between the UK and Greater China in both languages.

“Watching a film is the most direct way to learn about another country or a culture, in my view,” explained Dr Chan. “That’s how I learnt about European culture as a child growing up in Hong Kong.

“While journalism and media fail to deliver a more diverse space for public debate, film exhibition (both online and offline) becomes more responsible in filling this gap than ever. We don’t expect our audience to accept everything that a film tells them, but to create a contrast in their common knowledge about a certain topic.”

Dr Chan has opened many new scopes for research that were previously not available in interdisciplinary scholarship.

“My own PhD thesis was a critique of how the knowledge construction about Chinese cinema (as art, culture and business) in English-language academia is limited and disconnected with the fast-changing reality,” she continued. “I am currently in the best position to establish new research avenues via my practice with UCFC as well as my academic role at DMU, as an energy to inspire academia to catch up on the topic.

“The UK Research and Innovation’s funding criterias have been changing rapidly in recent years and I believe my approach to combine both research and impact, as well as my position as an academic and a social entrepreneur, is a timely response to the recent reform of the research council.”

Many of DMU’s students have benefited from gaining an internship while studying with Dr Chan in Global Arts and Festival Management, exposing them to unique experience and international industry insight.

As well as getting ready to launch the film festival in May, Dr Chan’s organisation is also preparing for the biggest British cinema showcase in China in the near future, following its successful collaboration on a Charlie Chaplin Retrospective with Hainan International Film Festival in 2020.

“We have learnt how film was used in the wrong way during the Cold War period in the last century,” she explained. “What we have to do is the opposite in our current times.

“I encourage film programmers and practitioners in the industry, as well as academics, to actively problematise any wartime mentality via a diverse engagement with film.

“We need to move away from a binary logic and thinking, and shift our focus to a collective problem-solving perspective. In order to do so, we also need a new style in formulating and disseminating research as academics. The more you get to know something, the less threatening or mysterious it becomes, hence less gap for manipulation.”

Posted on Friday 6th May 2022

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