Public Lecture: “Taiwanese-Language Films (Taiyupian): An Alternative Cinema of Poverty?” By Professor Chris Berry

Public Lecture: “Taiwanese-Language Films (Taiyupian): An Alternative Cinema of Poverty?”

Date: 26th March 2018 (Mon)

Time: 12:30 – 14:00

Venue: D2-LP-05, Tai Po Campus, EdUHK




The cycle of over 1,000 low-budget, Taiwanese-language films made between the mid-1950s and early 1970s was neglected and forgotten for many years. By the time people became interested in reclaiming them as Taiwan’s heritage, only 200-plus survived. One reason for their low regard has been their low production quality. In this paper, I propose approaching Taiwanese-language films as an alternative “cinema of poverty.” Recently, Song Hwee Lim has adapted Jerzy Grotowski’s idea of a “theatre of poverty” to analyse Midi Zi’s films. But where Lim and Grotowski see poverty as encouraging a high modernist stripping down to the essentials of the medium, Taiwanese-language cinema is another kind of cinema of poverty. It is characterised by the adoption of methods designed to maximise audience appeal in the shortest production time possible and at a low budget. These methods include sensational plot twists, emotive acting, and an exuberant practice of what Lu Xun in the 1930s called “grabbism” (拿来主义) – borrowing music, plot and anything else that works from overseas to create a locally distinctive bricolage.




Chris Berry is Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London. In the 1980s, he worked for China Film Import and Export Corporation in Beijing, and his academic research is grounded in work on Chinese-language cinemas and other Chinese-language screen-based media, as well as work from neighboring countries. Publications include: Cinema and the National: China on Screen (2006); Postsocialist Cinema in Post-Mao China: the Cultural Revolution after the Cultural Revolution (2004);Chinese Film Festivals: Sites of Translation (2017); Routledge Handbook of East Asian Popular Culture (2016); Public Space, Media Space (2013); Chinese Cinema, 4 vols, (2012); The New Chinese Documentary Film Movement: For the Public Record (2010); Electronic Elsewheres: Media, Technology, and Social Space (2010); Cultural Studies and Cultural Industries in Northeast Asia: What a Difference a Region Makes (2009); TV China (2008); Chinese Films in Focus II (2008); and Island on the Edge: Taiwan New Cinema and After (2005).


All are welcome and no registration is required. Please send any enquiries to Mr. Manni Cheung at 2948 7360 or via email

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