Italian Filmmakers in China after 1949: Transnational cinema and its cultural, economic, and political implications

Author: Stefano Bona

Bona, Stefano, 2018 Italian Filmmakers in China after 1949: Transnational cinema and its cultural, economic, and political implications, Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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This thesis seeks to contribute to the ongoing debate on Italian Film Studies and the role of Italian cinema in a transnational and translocal context.

To this purpose, it exposes the case histories of Italian filmmakers working in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and their representation of that country, its culture, and its people. Since 1957, for about three decades, Italian filmmakers were among the first, few Western directors allowed to shoot feature-length films (both documentaries and fiction films) and TV miniseries in the PRC. Then, after an almost 20-year-long cinematic absence from the PRC, in 2004 Italy signed a co-production agreement with China. This agreement became fully effective only ten years later.

This study analyses the six productions made by Italian directors in the PRC and internationally distributed between 1957 and 2014, when the co-production agreement becoming effective. The analysis covers aspects of their genesis, production, visual and narrative contents, meaning and reception, paying special attention to the historical context and cross-cultural aspects of each film. The six productions are:

- La muraglia cinese / Behind the Great Wall (Carlo Lizzani, 1958)

- Chung kuo / China (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1972)

- Marco Polo (TV miniseries, Giuliano Montaldo, 1982)

- The last emperor (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1987)

- La stella che non c’è / The missing star (Gianni Amelio, 2006)

- Two tigers (Sandro Cecca, 2007).

Investigating the experiences of these filmmakers over a span of six decades also becomes a way to illustrate the challenges and opportunities that new and future co-productions are likely to meet, from the planning phase through to distribution in China, which is soon expected to become the world’s largest market for the cinema industry.

Keywords: China, co-productions, Italy, Italian cinema, orientalism, transnational cinema, translocalism

Subject: Languages thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2018
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Dr Luciana d'Arcangeli