The British Film Institute presents the best global cinema on-demand:
From classic and contemporary films to the best of the BFI National Archive.

Choose another collection

Chinese Voices

Since the 1980s Chinese and British-Chinese filmmakers have been telling their own stories about living in the UK. These funny, tender and insightful tales reframe the UK's recent past and explore its multicultural present.

The UK's thriving Chinese community was poorly served on British screens for decades, despite a presence since the 16th Century. Chinese characters were rare, frequently exoticised and even, in the early days, played by white actors in make-up. It wasn't until the 1980s that British-Chinese filmmakers began to make their own films exploring the British-Chinese experience at first hand.

In Soursweet, adapted from Timothy Mo's Booker-shortlisted novel, a young Chinese couple balanced their inherited and adoptive cultures. Both Po-Chih Leong's Ping Pong and Kevin Wong's Peggy Su! poke gentle fun at the cultural divisions between the generations.

Many of the Chinese voices in this collection have poignant personal tales to tell. Blue Funnel delves into emotive questions surrounding ideas of home and the cultural dislocation of second-generation British Chinese. Yellow Fever exposes the prejudices of a gay Chinese man, while Red deals with the challenge of adapting to a new country with a strange language. Meanwhile modern filmmakers Xiaolu Guo, Jane Wong and Selina Lim chart the friction when traditional Chinese values brush up against an often unyielding British culture.

"Chinese filmmakers can bring that diversity and that silent voice to British cinema that's not been heard before. There's a whole section of society that's contributing to society and is not being heard."

Selina Lim, Screenwriter, Painkiller (2011)

triangle triangle
Chinese Voices

Recommended

View We Went to Wonderland
We Went to Wonderland
Watch from £2.13

We Went to Wonderland 2008

British-Chinese filmmaker Xiaolu Guo follows her ageing parents' journey to the West as they visit Europe. A rare chance to see one of Guo’s most personal films.

United Kingdom Director. Xiaolu Guo

View Soursweet
Soursweet
Watch from £2.98
HD

Soursweet 1988 15

Hong Kong newlyweds seek a fresh start in 60s Britain, but fall foul of the Triad underworld in this adaptation of Timothy Mo’s blackly comic novel.

110 mins United Kingdom Director. Mike Newell

View China Town
China Town
Watch for free

China Town 1981

One of the top TV stars of 1981: David Yip, aka the Chinese Detective, discovers the hidden history of Liverpool's Chinatown.

24 mins United Kingdom

View Nancy Kuo
Nancy Kuo
Watch for free 9 mins

Nancy Kuo 1985

Composition is the key as Nancy Kuo guides us through the strength and grace of her art in her Camden Town studio.

9 mins United Kingdom

View She, a Chinese
She, a Chinese
HD

She, a Chinese 2009 18

British-Chinese director Xiaolu Guo’s story of a young woman's journey from a remote Chinese village to London, in an attempt to realise the Western consumer dream.

United Kingdom Director. Xiaolu Guo

View Dim Sum (A Little Bit of Heart)
Dim Sum (A Little Bit of Heart)
Watch from £2.13

Dim Sum (A Little Bit of Heart) 2002

Documentarist Jane Wong films her mother and two Chinese friends as they discuss their lives and experiences as émigrés living in Liverpool.

38 mins United Kingdom Director. Jane Wong

View Jacqui Chan
Jacqui Chan
Watch for free 9 mins

Jacqui Chan 1982

Pioneering Chinese feminist and revolutionary Qiu Jin is remembered through mime and dance by the British performer Jacqui Chan.

9 mins United Kingdom

View Red
Red
Watch for free

Red 1995 PG

Beautiful, bittersweet tale of love, longing and Elvis. Xiao Mei leaves China for marriage in Britain. But her true desire is to find her family.

United Kingdom Director. Rosa Fong

View Chinese Community
Chinese Community
Watch for free 7 mins

Chinese Community 1985

Labour, Tory or Alliance - where does the political allegiance of the West Midlands Chinese community lie?

7 mins United Kingdom

View Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year
Watch for free 1 mins

Chinese New Year 1981

The reigning Miss Chinatown joins the traditional celebrations to mark the year of the Cockerel on a chilly February day in Birmingham.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Ping Pong
Ping Pong
Watch from £2.98
HD

Ping Pong 1986

A young lawyer has to execute the will of a Chinese man found dead in a phone box in a witty comic thriller - the first British-Chinese feature film.

100 mins United Kingdom Director. Leong Po-chih

View Chinese Restaurants
Chinese Restaurants
Watch for free 7 mins

Chinese Restaurants 1965

From the House of Liang Nam to the Kam Ling Bamboo Rooms: the pioneers who made the long journey from Hong Kong to bring Chinese food to Birmingham.

7 mins United Kingdom

View Chinese Restaurants
Chinese Restaurants
Watch for free 2 mins

Chinese Restaurants 1967

Will a dispute between China and Britain over Hong Kong harm sales in Birmingham's busy Chinese restaurants?

2 mins United Kingdom

View Lilting
Lilting
Watch from £2.98
HD

Lilting 2013 15

Ben Whishaw stars in an intimate portrait of two strangers brought together by the common language of grief.

United Kingdom Director. Hong Khaou

View Lilting (Q&A)
Lilting (Q&A)
Watch for free 13 mins

Lilting (Q&A) 2014

Director Hong Khaou and actors Ben Whishaw, Peter Bowles, Morven Christie, Naomi Christie and Andrew Leung discuss their film Lilting.

13 mins United Kingdom

View Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever
Watch from £0.85

Yellow Fever 1998

A gay British-Chinese man refuses to date Chinese men. But then Jai Ming moves in next door.

25 mins United Kingdom Director. Raymond Yeung

View Grow Your Own
Grow Your Own
Watch from £2.98
HD

Grow Your Own 2007 PG

A group of Merseyside gardeners take umbrage to the arrival of some refugees, but they find common cause to resist a devious corporate takeover.

100 mins United Kingdom Director. Richard Laxton

View 3 Mile Radius
3 Mile Radius
Watch from £0.85 15 mins

3 Mile Radius 2011

A dying Chinese man returns to his estranged wife to ask permission to see his son for the last time. When his wife refuses, he has to resort to desperate measures…

15 mins United Kingdom Director. Lab Ky Mo

View My Dad the Communist
My Dad the Communist
Watch from £0.85

My Dad the Communist 2009

Tony yearns to break down the cultural barriers between him and his inscrutable Chinese father, before it’s too late.

United Kingdom Director. Lab Ky Mo

View Mercutio's Dreaming
Mercutio's Dreaming
Watch from £0.85

Mercutio's Dreaming 2011

The travails of a British-Chinese, would-be Shakespearean actor, in an industry that sees him only as an 'Oriental'.

United Kingdom Director. Jennifer Lim, Daniel York

Cookies Policy

This website uses cookies, as explained in our Cookies Policy.

To accept the terms and hide this message please click 'I accept'.

I accept

Passionate about film? So are we…

Don't miss the email made for the in-the-know film fan:

New releases — on the same day as in cinemas Special collections & unheralded classics Exclusive news on discounts


Never ask | Ask me later