Female Auteurs in Sinophone Cinema: A Cultural History 1916-1949

Project: Research

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Women Film Pioneer Project, with open access articles and entries written by scholars worldwide, hosts many cases of women crossing the national and patriarchal boundaries in film production. The ongoing project points towards a women's film history under construction. In the same vein, the proposed study traces the geo-cultural locations of Sinophone cinemas foreground the female auteurs—director, writer, and producer—active between 1916 and 1949. When constructing the background of this history, the project’s geo-cultural locations coincide with the historical map of Chinese immigrants and Chinese films’ transnational distribution routes. Many notable filmmakers, including women, traveled between Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Hollywood, New York, and other Southeastern and Latin American cities in making and/or distributing films.California native Marion E. Wong, who wrote, produced, and directed a feature film in Oakland in 1916, is recognized as the first Chinese woman writer-director. Nine years later, Xie Caizhen directed and starred in An Orphan’s Cry in 1925 in Shanghai. Meanwhile, stage and screenplay writer Pu Shunqing began to write for Great Wall Motion Pictures and Canada-born actress-writer Florence Lim Cho-Cho for China Sun Film Company. Around 1928, actresses Helen Wang and Yang Naimei each produced a film, becoming China's first female producers. In the early 1930s, Shanghai saw actressscreenwriters Ai Xia and Hu Ping. In the later 1930s, San Franciscan Esther Eng and Wan Hoi Ling both became writer-directors in Hong Kong. Shortly before the Pacific War, Wan moved to Singapore in 1940 and continued writing and directing; Eng directed and produced Cantonese talkies in the US throughout the 1940s. Meanwhile, in Shanghai, writer-translator Sheng Qinxian wrote three screenplays between 1944 and 1945, while famous writer Eileen Chang wrote two between 1947 and 1948.The project aims to construct a cultural history of early Sinophone cinema with women auteurs in the foreground, depicting their transnational endeavors and how they vigorously incorporated their race, gender, and diasporic/migration experiences into their works. The PI hopes to find answers to three questions. First, how did the targeted women obtain the opportunity to create films they wanted to make? Second, how did they cope with national and transnational film productions in a male-dominated industry? Third, have they impacted later filmmakers and our understanding of film culture and industry today?


Project number9043451
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/10/22 → …