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The Authorship of PlaceA Cultural Geography of the New Chinese Cinemas$
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Dennis Lo

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9789888528516

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888528516.001.0001

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Myth Making in Place

Myth Making in Place

Cultivating the Wilderness with Li Xing and Wu Tianming

(p.53) 2 Myth Making in Place
The Authorship of Place

Dennis Lo

Hong Kong University Press

By critically examining Li Xing’s The Heroic Pioneers (1986) and Fourth Generation Chinese director Wu Tianming’s Old Well (1986), this chapter argues that the narratives and representations of place making in these “Chinese Westerns” suppress exilic longings to forge new myths of nation building, holding steadfast to official narratives of progress even at a time of decreasing influence for state-sponsored policy films in Taiwan and the PRC. At the heart of this chapter is my argument that the location shoots in The Heroic Pioneers and Old Well were staged as present-day reenactments of the films’ narratives of colonization and rural development. While shooting on-location in what were then an undeveloped Eastern coastline in Taiwan and the underdeveloped Northwestern Chinese province of Shaanxi, Li and Wu blurred their practices of location shooting with diegetic motifs of labor, self-sacrifice, loyalty, cultivation, and pioneering, thus mythologizing cultural production as a lived experience of nation building. They referred to their rituals of braving production hardships as “experiencing life,” a process through which they could emerge as archetypal national subjects. Despite Li’s and Wu’s attempts to demonstrate their dedication to social activism, a discursive analysis of the directors' production narratives demonstrates that a neocolonial cultural logic underlies their place making.

Keywords:   Li Hsing, Wu Tianming, Fourth Generation Chinese Cinema, The Heroic Pioneers, Old Well, Chinese Westerns, Experiencing life, Neocolonialism, Eastern Taiwan, Northwestern China

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