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Chinese Britain on Film

Chart the representation of Britain's Chinese communities in film, from exotic Other to more authentic self-portraits, in a collection of rare, strange, witty and touching films.

Explore the history of Chinese representation in British cinema over two contrasting collections. Tales of Old Chinatown includes films from the 1900s to the 1930s, an era coinciding with a 'yellow peril' moral panic in the press and pulp literature. Shaped by Britain's colonial conflicts, these films act out western anxieties of a nefarious Chinese 'Other' - usually with white actors in Chinese roles. The 1900 Boxer Rebellion inspired the earliest films here, but the dominant Chinese figure of the age was fictional: the evil oriental mastermind represented here by Dr Sin Fang - a barely-disguised version of Sax Rohmer's sinister creation Dr Fu-Manchu. Slightly more sympathetic portrayals came later, notably in Piccadilly (1929) and other films with Chinese-American star Anna May Wong, though their protagonists invariably met tragic ends. The films in Chinese Voices mark the emergence of first-hand accounts of British-Chinese life. Slowly waking up to an increasingly multicultural nation in the 1960s and 70s, British TV featured occasional reports from Chinese communities. But it wasn't until the 1980s that British-Chinese writers and directors began to film their own stories, using comedy, drama or documentary. Warm, tough, funny and poignant, these films at last give more authentic voice to the British-Chinese experience.

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Chinese characters in British film (Q&A)
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Chinese characters in British film (Q&A)

Inside Film20140 mins

BFI Curator Dylan Cave, filmmaker/novelist Xiaolu Guo (She, a Chinese) and screenwriter Selina Lim (Painkiller) introduce the ‘Chinese Britain on Film’ collection.

Chinese in Wartime Britain
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Chinese in Wartime Britain

Government sponsored film194410 mins Location: London

A documentary about the benefits and influences of Chinese immigration on Britain’s home front.

China Town
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China Town

Magazine and Review show198124 mins Location: Liverpool

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

Nancy Kuo
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Nancy Kuo

Magazine and Review show19859 mins Location: Camden Town

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

Jacqui Chan
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Jacqui Chan

Magazine and Review show19829 mins

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

Chinese Community
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Chinese Community

Magazine and Review show19858 mins Location: Sparkbrook

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

Chinese New Year
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Chinese New Year

Non-Fiction19811 mins Location: Birmingham

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

Red
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Red

Drama199526 mins Location: Kilburn

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.

Chinese Restaurants
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Chinese Restaurants

Non-Fiction19657 mins Location: Birmingham

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.

21 Days in China - a British teacher's impressions
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21 Days in China - a British teacher's impressions

Non-Fiction19726 mins Location: Shanghai

"Education must be combined with productive labour", so says a Chinese slogan. Western cameras are special guests to capture 70s school days - eastern style!

The Woman from China
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The Woman from China

Crime193176 mins

A young woman is persuaded to help a Chinese businessman to kidnap a naval officer in this fun and outrageous British thriller.

Family and Children
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Family and Children

Amateur film19300 mins Location: Wembley

Enjoy fun in the garden, a picnic and a trip to the beach with the Eng brothers in this amateur film

East Sixteen
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East Sixteen

Documentary195910 mins Location: Limehouse

Stylishly realised portrait of Chinese priest Peter Kao, who offers a Christian welcome to sailors from his homeland.

Offcut Compilation - Eng Personal Film
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Offcut Compilation - Eng Personal Film

Amateur film19300 mins

Extra scenes from the Eng family's home movies, including trips to Germany and China

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Tales of Old Chinatown
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Tales of Old Chinatown

Chinatown is as much an idea as a place. In the early 20th century British films imagined their own Chinatown, defined by mystery, fear and the exotic.

Yellow Fever from Chinese Britain on Film

More Chinese Britain on Film in our Rentals collection.