Center Hosted “On the Margins of American Cinema” Themed Events by Richard Peña


Center Hosted “On the Margins of American Cinema” Themed Events by Richard Peña

January 14, 2016


Richard Peña, Professor of Film at Columbia University's School of the Arts, Former Program Director of the Film Society at Lincoln Center and Director Emeritus of the New York Film Festival visited China and brought us a series of themed events named “On the Margins of American Cinema” hosted by Columbia Global Centers | East Asia (Beijing) from January 6th to January 14th.

Panel discussion on January 6th: International Film Business Dialogue

Columbia Global Centers | East Asia (Beijing) hosted a panel discussion on international film business, featuring Professor Richard Peña, Fu Hongxing, Director of China Film Art Research Center and China Film Archive, Zhou Xuan, Professor from University of International Business and Economics and Director of China Film Industry Research Center, You Fei, Professor from School of Film Arts, Communication University of China (CUC) ,and a representative of CEO of Alibaba Pictures Group. Professor Peña considered the fourth period in cinema history, namely post-1990 period, as the one having the most profound changes when the spread and adaption of digital technology has redefined what we call cinema. In light of these changes, he expected that Hollywood blockbusters would be transformed into virtual reality, “narrative cinema” would migrate to television, and the cinema would become a museum art. These changes, he insisted, “are coming, probably faster than we imagine”. After his speech, panelists shared their thoughts in response to Professor Peña’s opinions.


Seminar on January 7th: Sensual Cinema

Beijing Center co-hosted a seminar on Sensual Cinema by Professor Richard Peña, in partnership with Communication University of China(CUC). Richard Peña illustrated that “Sensual films, as a type of film that appeals to sensory experience rather than cognitive understanding”, had recently made a return to prominence. His prediction of the future of sensual cinema was that “within ten years or so, there will be a massive closing down of cinemas, at least in the US and Western Europe. The cinemas that continue to exist are going to be extremely sophisticated technologically, with amazing effects generated in a kind of virtual reality film”. Wu Jianyang, Deputy Director of Arts Division of CUC, and Zhang Zongwei, Professor from School of Film Arts at CUC, were invited to join the event as commentators and shared some great examples after Professor Peña’s lecture. Professor Zhang also highlighted the uniqueness of Columbia School of the Arts and encouraged students to pursue further study opportunities there.


Seminar on January 8th: The Birth, Death and Re-Birth of Latin American Cinema

At the Institute of Latin America Studies, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Professor Richard Peña gave a keynote speech at a seminar on “The Birth, Death and Re-Birth of Latin American Cinema". He introduced four major periods in the history of Latin American Cinema: the period of discovery (1896-1930), the period of studio filmmaking (1930-1955), the period of national cinemas (1955-1990), and the transnational era we are still living in. After the lecture, professor Peña had the heated discussions with some leading Chinese scholars on the film studies including Yang Zhimin, Director of Integrated Studies Office at the Institute of Latin America Studies, CASS, Fang Lianquan, Director of Social and Cultural Studies Office at CASS, Lin Hua, Deputy Director of Social and Cultural Studies Office at CASS, Wei Ran, Deputy Director of the Insitute of Latin America Studies at CASS, Tan Qiuwen, Editor of Contemporary Cinema, Yao Rui from China Film Archive, Wang Yao from Beijing Film Academy and Han Lu from Peking University.


Seminar on January 9th: An American Neo-Realism? The Case of The Salt of the Earth

Beijing Center co-hosted a seminar on Neo-Realism cinema in partnership with Ullens Center for Contemporary Art. Professor Richard Peña held that neo-realism, defined as a pronounced use of real or natural locations, natural lighting and the mixtures of actors and non-actors and a marked use of ambiguity in the narrative that rarely moves to full closure, actually could be found long before the debut of Rome Open City directed by Roberto Rossellini in 1945 in film cultures all over the world. He considered The Salt of the Earth, a controversial film in the American cinema history, as the one that does resemble neo-realism precisely, from its production methods to its social and political message conveyed. Professor Peña commented that “Years ahead of its time in terms of technique (and) method of production and politics, The Salt of the Earth remains a proud if lonely example of an American cinema that might have been”.


Seminar on January 11th: American Avant-Garde Cinema

At Beijing American Center of the U.S. Embassy, Professor Peña introduced to the packed audience the development and characteristics of American avant-garde cinema. He said that since 1920s, in the United States there had been movements of independent filmmakers whose very existence represented a kind of opposition to the aesthetics and industrial organization of Hollywood. Historically, there were six areas where films could assert their independence: technology, production, distribution, exhibition, aesthetics and politics. He also explained three major defining characteristics of American Avant-garde cinema: distinctive connection with other artistic media and movements; lack of explicit politics; and "anti-narrative" bias. Li Daoxin, a Chinese film historian and Professor from School of Arts at Peking University, later discussed the present and future of Chinese avant-garde cinema with Professor Peña. 

(Contributed by Manman Wu)