Travelling Films: Western Criticism, Labelling Practice and Self-Orientalised East Asian Films

Lee, Ji Yeon. 2005. Travelling Films: Western Criticism, Labelling Practice and Self-Orientalised East Asian Films. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Travelling films : western criticism, the labelling practice and self-orientalised East Asian films)
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Abstract or Description

This thesis analyses western criticism, labelling practices and the politics of European international film festivals. In particular, this thesis focuses on the impact of western criticism on East Asian films as they attempt to travel to the west and when they travel back to their home countries. This thesis draws on the critical arguments by Edward Said's Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (1978) and self-Orientalism, as articulated by Rey Chow, which is developed upon Mary Louise Pratt's conceptual tools such as 'contact zone' and 'autoethnography'. This thesis deals with three East Asian directors: Kitano Takeshi (Japanese director), Zhang Yimou (Chinese director) and Im Kwon-Taek (Korean director). Dealing with Japanese, Chinese and Korean cinema is designed to show different historical and cultural configurations in which each cinema draws western attention. This thesis also illuminates different ways each cinema is appropriated and articulated in the west. This thesis scrutinises how three directors from the region have responded to this Orientalist discourse and investigates the unequal power relationship that controls the international circulation of films.

Each director's response largely depends on the particular national and historical contexts of each country and each national cinema. The processes that characterise films' travelling are interrelated: the western conception of Japanese, Chinese or Korean cinema draws upon western Orientalism, but is at the same time corroborated by directors' responses. Through self-Orientalism, these directors, as 'Orientals', participate in forming and confirming the premises of western Orientalism. This thesis thus brings out how 'Orientals' participate in the formation and maintenance of Orientalism via selfOrientalism or self-Orientalising strategies. As Edward Said (1978; 1985) remarks, 'Orientals' adopt the terms and premises of Orientalism and use them in exactly the same way, or reverse them. Vis-a-vis this point, this thesis shows that self-Orientalism, as a response to Orientalism, is mediated by its relationship with the national and historical contexts of a particular society. Western Orientalism does not fully determine how 'Orientals' define their own culture and respond to Oriental ism.

This thesis shows that a national film industry can more easily break into the international film market if internationally recognised auteur directors from the particular country have been recognised at international film festivals. This thesis elucidates the practice of labelling foreign films categorised as 'national cinema' and 'art cinema'. While Hollywood films are assumed to possess 'universality', the international art-house circuit and film festival circuits label films from other countries by their specific nationality or national culture, which is assumed to be reflected in high/traditional art. In this circuit, the names of 'auteur' directors from each country act as brand names, moulding audiences' expectations of films from a specific country. Film festivals, meanwhile, seek to become sites for 'discovering' supposedly unknown auteur directors and national cmemas.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


East Asian cinema, Western film criticsm, Kitano Takeshi, Zhang Yimou, Im Kwon-Taek, Orientalist discourse

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

29 May 2020 14:12

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:29


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