Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

FILM2022 Contemporary Chinese Cinema

Module Overview

This module examines the changes that have occurred in the People’s Republic of China from 2000 to the present, by analysing how this period of transition has been reflected, explored, symbolised, and constructed in contemporary Chinese film. The central idea of this module is to use selected films from a variety of genres (such as documentaries, art films, and blockbusters) as an entry point into examining this dynamic period, while building a larger contextual comprehension of how this era of massive change has been experienced, translated, and evoked through film. To do this, this module is structured around opposing themes, such as history and the future; urban and the rural; wealth and poverty; construction and destruction; and support and resistance. Although this module focuses on Chinese contemporary cinema and its context, the themes and issues covered are not only applicable to China but can also be used to interrogate other national cinemas. Weekly lectures provide context for the films being examined, and also introduce key themes and concepts. A film will be screened every week over the course of the semester, and each example will be solidly placed in its historical, socio-political, and aesthetic contexts so that it can serve as a starting point from which to engage with the module’s larger themes. In the seminars, we will examine the readings, lectures, and screenings in greater detail, while also offering you the opportunity to develop your ideas and your critical understanding. Finally, one-on-one tutorials are also offered to support you in beginning your own individual research projects.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Demonstrate appropriate levels of understanding and knowledge about the range of contemporary Chinese cinemas
  • Articulate an understanding of contemporary Chinese society and the nation’s fast-paced metamorphosis
  • Understand the social, political, historical, economic, and cultural contexts of post-millennium Chinese culture and society
  • Connect the themes explored in this module to other international contexts
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Engage critically with a range of theories, films, and cultural products
  • Apply the module’s concepts and themes to other nations and contexts, and expand knowledge of these themes into other areas
  • Critically research and analyse film in academic writing and oral presentations
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Communicate effectively in writing and speech
  • Independently research appropriate resources
  • Critical analysis
  • Organise time effectively


Films serve as the core texts for this module, and have been selected to provide different perspectives that connect to the module’s various themes. The module is structured around opposing themes, including history and the future; urban and the rural; wealth and poverty; construction and destruction; and support and resistance. Screenings and assigned readings reflect these themes, and are intended to offer a deeper understanding through this dialectical comparison. At the start of this module, we will begin by establishing the socio-historical context of the People’s Republic of China and sketch out the main events that have influenced its formation. Then, we will examine how the nation’s history has been constructed and its future projected in film, not only by the state but also through commercial and artistic agencies. Next, we will examine how the nation’s massive changes have had differing effects on the rural heartland and the coastal cities, and how it has resulted in not only a spatial divide but a temporal one as well. Then, we will analyse the economic and social effects of this disparity and how this has been interrogated in film, and later we will examine how the nation’s destruction for its future construction has been projected but also critiqued in the visual arts. Finally, we will conclude by examining the response to these massive changes by analysing a variety of documentaries that have “captured” this transition, and examine how “truth” is theorised, constructed, recorded and felt in these films.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures, used to introduce key issues and themes • Seminars, incorporating small group work and larger group discussion • Screenings of selected films • Individual consultations with tutor Learning activities include • Independent study, research, and viewing • Critical thinking, reading, and writing • Engagement in seminar discussions as both speaker and listener • Preparation of written assignments

Completion of assessment task70
Preparation for scheduled sessions30
Practical classes and workshops30
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Chow, Rey (2007). Sentimental Fabulations, Contemporary Chinese Films: Attachment in the Age of Global Visibility. 

Lost in Beijing, dir. Li Yu, 2007.. Film

Railroad of Hope, dir. Ning Ying, 2002. Film

Berry, Chris, Lu Xinyu and Lisa Rofel (2010). The New Chinese Documentary Film Movement: For the Public Record. 

Beijing Bicycle, dir. Wang Xiaoshuai, 2001.. Film

Still Life, dir. Jia Zhangke, 2006.. Film

Zhang, Zhen, ed (2007). The Urban Generation: Chinese Cinema and Society at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century. 

Braester, Yomi (2010). Painting the City Red: Chinese Cinema and the Urban Contract. 

Berry, Chris, ed (2008). Chinese Films in Focus II.. 

Berry, Chris and Mary Farquhar (2006). China on Screen: Cinema and Nation. 

Beijing Olympics 2008 Opening Ceremony, dir. Zhang Yimou, 2008.. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Presentation with supporting handout  (10 minutes) 10%
Report  (1000 words) 30%
Research project  (2500 words) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

FILM1001 or FILM1002 or FILM2006 or ENGL1079


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Course reader (cost to be determined); 1 or 2 additional texts (costs not to exceed £40).

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings