Transnational Cinemas

Funnell, Lisa and Yuya Kiuchi, eds. Special Issue on “Asian Popular Culture.” Journal of Popular Culture 49.5 (2016).

This inaugural special issue in Journal of Popular Culture draws attention to the diverse and robust scholarship being produced on Asian popular culture. It features essays that explore various facets of popular culture from Japan, South Korea, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Canada, and the United States.


Collection 2Funnell, Lisa and Man-fung Yip, eds. American and Chinese-Language Cinemas: Examining Cultural Flows. Routledge Advances in Film Studies. New York: Routledge, 2015.

Critics frequently describe the influence of “America,” through Hollywood and other cultural industries, as a form of cultural imperialism. This unidirectional model of interaction does not address, however, the counter-flows of Chinese-language films into the American film market or the influence of Chinese filmmakers, film stars, and aesthetics in Hollywood.The aim of this collection is to (re)consider the complex dynamics of transnational cultural flows between American and Chinese-language film industries. The goal is to bring a more historical perspective to the subject, focusing as much on the Hollywood influence on early Shanghai or postwar Hong Kong films as on the intensifying flows between American and Chinese-language cinemas in recent decades. Contributors emphasize the processes of appropriation and reception involved in transnational cultural practices, examining film production, distribution, and reception.


Collection 1Gates, Philippa and Lisa Funnell, eds. Transnational Asian Identities in Pan-Pacific Cinemas: The Reel Asian Exchange. Routledge Advances in Film Studies. New York: Routledge, 2012.

This collection examines the exchange of Asian identities taking place at the levels of both film production and film reception amongst pan-Pacific cinemas. The authors consider, on the one hand, texts that exhibit what Mette Hjort refers to as, “marked transnationality,” and on the other, the polysemic nature of transnational film texts by examining the release and reception of these films. The topics explored in this collection include the innovation of Hollywood generic formulas into 1950’s and 1960’s Hong Kong and Japanese films; the examination of Thai and Japanese raced and gendered identity in Asian and American films; the reception of Hollywood films in pre-1949 China and millennial Japan; the production and performance of Asian adoptee identity and subjectivity; the political implications and interpretations of migrating Chinese female stars; and the production and reception of pan-Pacific co-productions.

Funnell, Lisa. “Hong Kong’s It/Ip Man: The Chinese Contexts of Donnie Yen’s Transnational Stardom.” Transnational Stardom: International Celebrity in Film and Popular Culture. Eds. Russell Meeuf and Raphael Raphael. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 117-138.

This paper examines the transnational appeal of Donnie Yen in the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese film markets. On the one hand, Yen is considered by many to be last great action star choreographer of Hong Kong cinema. In the new millennium, Yen has helped to revitalize post-1997 Hong Kong cinema and reposition its industry as an action filmmaking center. Working on such films as Kill Zone (2005), Dragon Tiger Gate (2007), and Flashpoint (2007), Yen has helped to reconnect Chinese heroic masculinity with the concepts of cinematic, corporeal, and archival authenticity. On the other hand, Yen has emerged in the mainland film market as a figure of Chinese patriotism. Read through a distinctly local lens, Yen’s performance of martial arts in films like Ip Man (2008) and Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010) have been interpreted as a form of national expression and resistance against foreign/non-Chinese influences. Yen’s transnational success in the Chinese film market can be attributed to the polysemic nature of his star persona that speaks to different national/cultural sensibilities of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese filmgoers.

Funnell, Lisa. “The Repatriation of Overseas Chinese Stars in Post-1997 Hong Kong Cinema: Daniel Wu – A Case Study.” Transnational Cinemas 2.2 (2012): 163-178.

Cop on a Mission 8

Daniel Wu in Cop on a Mission (Mak 2001)

This article studies Asian actors from North America and their response to the recent repatriation of overseas Chinese in post-1997 Hong Kong. Focus is placed on the casting, characterisation, and shifting star persona of the Asian American action star Daniel Wu. Although Wu is an American of Mainland Chinese descent, he was initially marketed as an overseas Chinese actor and return migrant to Hong Kong. Over the course of his career, he became increasingly localized and subsequently integrated into ge-ying-shi (music-film-TV) – the intermedial star system of Hong Kong – through his increased proficiency in Cantonese, award-winning performances in high-profile action films, and transnational promotion of the local (popular) culture of Hong Kong. I argue that there is a shift in Wu’s star persona from an ideal returnee – i.e., a young/youthful overseas Chinese actor and sex symbol – to a mature, local(ized), and marquee star of the action cinema. The changes in Wu’s representation arguably serve as a model for the return migration of overseas Chinese and their incorporation into post-1997 Hong Kong.

Funnell, Lisa. “Migrating West…To the East: Transnational Chinese Canadians in Hong Kong Action.” Transnational Asian Identities in Pan-Pacific Cinemas: The Reel Asian Exchange. Eds. Philippa Gates and Lisa Funnell. New York: Routledge, 2012. 133-146.

This chapter explores how the “one country [China]—two systems [Hong Kong, Mainland]” amalgamation (1 July 1997) has affected Hong Kong’s post-1997 sense of identity. While the early 1990s saw the migration of Hong Kong residents overseas and particularly to Canada, the late 1990s witnessed the repatriation of Hong Kong’s diaspora. This return migration has been reflected in Hong Kong’s post-1997 cultural industry and especially its cinema which features multiple and coexisting representations of transnational Chinese identity. In light of this transmigration, Chinese Canadians have become the largest pool of overseas talent from which the post-1997 film industry has drawn upon. Amongst such popular Canadian Cantopop singers turned actors as Edison Chen and Nicholas Tse, Charlene Choi (a.k.a. Ah Sa, Sasa) has enjoyed the greatest success. Through her own (return) migration narrative, Choi reflects the repatriation of the “1.5 generation”—children of Hong Kong migrants who were born and/or raised and educated in Canada in the 1990s while maintaining social, cultural, and/or familial connections to Hong Kong through their parents. Using the career of Choi as a case study, this paper examines the depiction of transmigrant returnee identity in post-1997 action films and explores how markers of local identity such as family trees/ties, proficiency in Cantonese, and prominent action film iconography are discursively employed to help localize Chinese Canadian performers into the star system of Hong Kong. The examination of returnee representation on screen provides insight into the ongoing negotiation of national, ethnic, and cultural identities in post-1997 Hong Kong.