Sino-Canadian documentary coproduction : transnational production mode, narrative pattern and theatrical release in China

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-255
Journal / PublicationStudies in Documentary Film
Issue number3
Online published6 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


This article examines a series of coproduction practices undertaken by Canadian and Chinese documentarians against the backdrop of international interest in China, increasing transnational exchange and China's booming film market. First, it compares two documentaries about similar subjects, the Canadian-made Up the Yangtze (2007) and the Chinese-independent-made Bing Ai (2007a). The divergent approaches taken by these two films result partly from their different modes of production and target audiences (or lack thereof). It then investigates the production of Last Train Home (2009), for which Chinese and Canadian filmmakers collaboratively assembled economic and creative recourses and transformed a Chinese story to meet the needs of an international market. Modelled on Up the Yangtze, Last Train Home articulates the life fragments of a migrant worker family as a similar ‘figures in history’ narrative and underscores global interconnectedness and dramatic storytelling to engage global viewers. Finally, it analyses China Heavyweight (2012), an officially approved coproduction, which sought to access the untapped mainland Chinese film market. These practices demonstrate the potential of coproduction as ‘production technology’ (Baltruschat 2010. Global Media Ecologies: Networked Production in Film and Television. Abingdon: Routledge). I emphasise their significance in establishing a new model for Chinese documentarians in multiple dimensions including transnational production mode, narrative pattern and theatrical release.

Research Area(s)

  • Chinese documentary, Chinese film market, documentary production, transnational cinema, transnational coproduction