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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The ReceptionistThe Receptionist

Drama2016102 minsDirector: Jenny Lu

A Taiwanese graduate begins work at a massage parlour, in this illuminating and authentic depiction of the migrant experience at London's margins.

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The Flame of LoveThe Flame of Love

Melodrama193075 minsDirector: Richard Eichberg

Chinese-American star Anna May Wong dazzles as a Chinese dancer forced to give herself to a Russian General in order to save her brother.

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Crime1929109 minsSilentDirector: E.A. Dupont

The glitter of Jazz Age clubland meets the Far East (of London) in this stunningly restored silent classic, starring Anna May Wong.

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Drama201386 minsDirector: Hong Khaou

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

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We Went to WonderlandWe Went to Wonderland

Documentary200872 minsDirector: Xiaolu Guo

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.

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Ping PongPing Pong

Comedy1986100 minsDirector: Leong Po-Chih

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.

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Drama1988111 minsDirector: Mike Newell

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.

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Yellow FeverYellow Fever

Comedy199827 minsDirector: Raymond Yeung

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

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Crime192250 minsSilentDirector: Graham Cutts

A decadent, controversial tale of London's seedy underbelly, where an elegant Chinese club host enslaves the weak with white powder.

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Chinese Voices
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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.

More Chinese Britain on Film in our Free collection.