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Mobile Film Projectionists and Rural Cinema Exhibition in Mao’s China

For Mao’s China, Lenin’s oft-quoted statement “that of all the arts the most important for us is the cinema” is a truism with an unspoken precondition—cinema encounters its audience. This talk focuses on a unique agent of Chinese socialist cinema—mobile film projectionists who brought films to a broad audience in rural China in the 1950s and 1960s. The first half of the talk frames the emergence of mobile film projectionists in a network of interwoven factors, including the economic, the socio-political, and the technological, in order to call attention to the problems and challenges in the Chinese Communist Party’s popularization of cinema. The second half examines the mobile film projectionist’s exhibition practices, including pre-screening promotional activities and “live performance” during the film screening. Through analyzing the overlay of the state’s interest and intrinsic values of professional practices, and last but not least, the importance of agency on the part of film projectionists, the talk complicates the reductionist understanding of Chinese socialist cinema as a tool of state propaganda.

About the speaker

Dr Xiaoning Lu is Reader in Modern Chinese Culture and Language at SOAS, University of London, where she teaches Chinese-language cinema and culture. Her research has been preoccupied with understanding the complex relationship between cultural production and state governance in modern China. She is the author of Moulding the Socialist Subject: Cinema and Chinese Modernity 1949-1966 (Brill, 2020) and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Communist Visual Cultures (OUP, 2020). Her writings on various aspects of Chinese socialist cinema and culture have appeared in journals and edited collections, including Journal of Chinese Cinemas, Studies in Eastern European Cinema, Journal of Contemporary China, Chinese Film Stars (Routledge, 2010), Surveillance in Asian Cinema: Under Eastern Eyes (Routledge, 2019) and Maoist Laughter (Hong Kong University Press, Choice’s Outstanding Academic Title 2020).


Thursday, 5 October 2023 at 19:00 (Bangkok Time)


Online (Available via Zoom)


Free of charge

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