CGI and “National Style”: Zhang Yimou’s Shadow, online lecture by Professor Jason McGrath, 9-10am, May 15 (Monday, Hong Kong Time), Zoom

Title: CGI and “National Style”: Zhang Yimou’s Shadow

Time:  9am-10am, May 15 (Monday, Hong Kong Time), Zoom

Speaker: Professor Jason McGrath, University of Minnesota, USA

Moderator: Professor Jinying Li, Brown University, USA

Format: 40 minutes’ lecture, followed by 20 minutes’ Q & A 


In the history of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in China, as in the much longer history of animation more generally, we find competing and yet intertwined trends toward, on one hand, absorbing technological advances made abroad and “catching up” with the state of the art as determined by others and, on the other, seeking to use those technologies in the service of a distinctively Chinese aesthetic, or even to use the possibilities of animation—particularly its liberation from the limitations of photographic realism—to give new expressions to figures and narratives from Chinese tradition. This paper examines Zhang Yimou’s 2018 martial arts film Shadow (影) as a recent example of how a Chinese aesthetic tradition—in this case ink landscape painting—forms the intermedial inspiration for the film’s visual imagination. However, rather than straightforwardly serving as a soft-power assertion of China’s national strength, Shadow employs the symbolism of the “Supreme Ultimate” from Daoist philosophy to subtly challenge hegemonic military, political, and patriarchal structures of power.


Jason McGrath is Professor of modern Chinese cultural studies in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Minnesota, where he also serves on the graduate faculty in Moving Image, Media, and Sound Studies. His first book, Postsocialist Modernity: Chinese Cinema, Literature, and Criticism in the Market Age examined how the post-1980s marketization trend transformed Chinese culture in the contemporary era. His second book, Chinese Film: Realism and Convention from the Silent Era to the Digital Age, traces the history of mainland Chinese fiction film through the various claims for cinematic realism made over a century of cinema in China, describing a historical dialectics of realism and convention in which realisms define themselves both through and in opposition to conventions of various sorts, whether those of indigenous Chinese drama, classical Hollywood cinema, melodrama, socialist realism, neorealism, or contemporary blockbuster cinema.

Zoom ID: 973 3451 7806

Password: ACASSHSS

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