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Cinema in China prior to WWI

A Case Study of West-Eastern Culture Transfer

Meimei Xu

This book looks at the earliest history of exhibiting firms in China at the turn of the
century. The spread of cinema in China as a continuation of the lantern tradition is
contextualized and conventionalized in the late Qing sociopolitical milieu, featuring
a strong foreign monopoly and regional imbalance. However, the key element for
cinema’s development in China is Chinese audience per se.

“The book has produced something truly remarkable and tremendous.”
                                                                                                     —Frank Bren

“The work offers a lot of new insights into the history of the cinema in China. Though
the film business was brought from abroad to the mainland, the candidate was never
nationalistic in her approach to the phenomenon of foreign entertainment in China.”
                                                                                                     —Wolfgang Kubin

“The author painstakingly combed through a large number of historical newspapers,
especially English-language newspapers published both in and outside China, and
pieced together a convincing picture of the earliest history of Chinese cinema.”
                                                                                                       —Xuelei Huang 

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Chapter 3. War Cameramen, 1900–1905

Extract



Abstrakt Von 1900 an wurde die Zahl der Kinematographen-Vorführung wegen der Boxaufstand und des Russichen-Japanischen Krieges deutlich reduziert. Der Schwerpunkt wurde auf Dreharbeiten übertragen. Kurz nach „the Siege of Legation“ (der Belagerung von Gesandtschaftsviertel) entstand ein „Boxer-Fieber“ in den westlichen Ländern und Boxer Filme hatten eine große Nachfrage. Aufgrund seiner Realitätstreue wurde das Kino als ein Mittel für Realität-representation verwendet. Dutzend ausländische Kameraleute, wie z.B C. Fred Ackerman, Robert Kates Bonine, Joseph Rosenthal und Oscar Depue, wurden somit nach China entsandt, um die Boxbewegung und Kriegsszenen aufzunehmen. Sie drehten zahlreiche Kriegsfilme und dokumentierten das alltäglichem Leben im damaligen China. In der Zwischenzeit hatten die Kriege eine Chance gegeben, um das Potential des Kinos als Massenmedium zu realisieren. In diesem Abschnitt untersuche ich hauptsächlich die Dreharbeiten von diesen Kameraleute und analysiere einige prototypische Filme, die an die Konstruktion eines negativen Bild von China (Yellow peril) teilgenommen hatten.

Abstract: From 1900 onwards, due to Boxer Rebellion and Russo-Japanese War, the number of cinematograph exhibitions reduced significantly. The focus was transferred to shooting practices. Shortly after the Siege of legation district, a Boxer fever emerged in Western countries and Boxer films were in huge demand.385 Due to its high degree of fidelity, cinema was considered an effective way of representing the reality. Dozens of foreign cameramen were hence dispatched to China to record Boxers and war scenes, to name but a few, C. Fred Ackerman, Robert Kates Bonnie, Joseph Rosenthal...

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