Chinese Independent Documentary Films for an International Audience: Transnational Filmmaking Practices since the Late 2000s


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

View graph of relations


Related Research Unit(s)


Awarding Institution
Award date2 May 2019


Since the late 2000s, a cluster of Chinese independent documentary films has been shortlisted by and exhibited at prestigious international film festivals. A large proportion of them received investment from international financial and creative resources and was transnationally produced. Despite numerous international acclaims earned at film festivals, these transnational productions and practices have drawn little academic attention. Furthermore, existing English scholarship on Chinese independent documentary tends to frame it as an indigenous cultural form and practice rooted in postsocialist China, highlighting their independence from the state on textual and production–circulation levels. A transnational approach is relatively lacking. A transnational approach is significant in studying these transnational documentary productions and practices because it enables an investigation of the local–global dynamics that shape and transform the production, distribution, and exhibition of Chinese independent documentary.

In the intersection field of documentary studies and transnational cinema, this thesis analyzes transnational documentary productions and filmmaking practices since the late 2000s. The thesis argues that driven by an international demand for Chinese content, a transnational model in Chinese documentary making has emerged and contributed to a transformation of Chinese independent documentary toward professionalization, commodification, and internationalization in post-WTO China.

The thesis contains four main chapters. I first examine the overseas circulation and reception of Chinese independent documentary, on which these transnational productions since the late 2000s are predicated. I then analyze a series of coproduction practices undertaken by Chinese and Canadian professionals, which, I argue, has established a new transnational model for domestic documentarians. I further probe into the institutional forces and mechanisms that facilitate transnational documentary production by examining the documentary organization CNEX and its two training events. Finally, through a textual analysis of two transnational productions, I identify a type of “cosmopolitan narrative” and a new global agenda in Chinese documentary filmmaking, which are enabled by the involvement of an international audience. Overall, the thesis provides a preliminary account of a market-oriented transnational model in Chinese independent documentary since the late 2000s by examining relevant practices, agents, documentary works, and contexts.

    Research areas

  • Chinese independent documentary, documentary production, Chinese cinema, transnational cinema