As much as expats in China like to complain about the state of Chinese film and television, this week Kaiser and Jeremy remind of that there is a lot of great art out there too, in a show that asks the critical question of what is worth our collective time? Joining to give their takes on this question are guests Raymond Zhou, film reviewer for China's biggest film magazine and columnist for the China Daily, as well as the ever-brilliant David Moser, director of the CET immersion program in Beijing.

Like Sinica? Remember that if you find listening to the show through our online flash player discomfiting, you are always welcome to download this show and all of our others as a standalone mp3 file. Alternately, you can subscribe to all of our shows by RSS using our public feed at or send feedback or suggestions for future show topics to us by email at
 said on
December 28, 2013
I wasn't fast enough to catch all the names of the films/directors. Would one of you mind supplementing the impartial list I've gathered below? 多谢!

《大红灯笼高高挂》 张艺谋

《红高粱》 张艺谋










 said on
December 31, 2013
Apologies for the delay in posting this week’s links! Our intern was (is) out of the country.

NOTE: This episode marks a more comprehensive and hopefully more helpful format for Sinica links. Short descriptions or notes are given where appropriate, and names are rendered in English (where extant) as well as in the Chinese script (simplified/traditional) used in the native region of a given person, publication or work.


1. A Practical Guide to Chinese Cinema 2002-2012 (Kindle edition) by Raymond Zhou (hard copy unavailable outside mainland China)

2. Roger Ebert (official site)

3. The magazine 看电影 / Movie Watching (page at Wikipedia, Chinese)

4. Fifth Generation Filmmakers 第五代导演 article at Art Speak China Wiki

6. 周黎明评《小时代》:新琼瑶的趣味 (“Raymond Zhou reviews Tiny Times: Penchant of the New Chiung Yao”)

Notes: Link goes to re-hosted text of the original Chinese-language review. Chiung Yao / 瓊瑤 is a Taiwan-based writer whose influential (if formulaic) romance novels peaked in popularity during the the 1970s and 80’s, and whose style can be considered a sub-genre unto itself.

7. Writer and director Guo Jingming / 郭敬明 (page at Wikipedia)

Raymond’s pick for 2013

8. The film 无人区 / No Man’s Land directed by Ning Hao / 宁浩 (page at Wikipedia)

Raymond’s all-time picks

9. The film Farewell My Concubine / 霸王别姬 directed by Chen Kaige / 陈凯歌 (page at Wikipedia)

10. The film Raise the Red Lantern / 大红灯笼高高挂 directed by Zhang Yimou / 张艺谋 (page at Wikipedia)

11. Director Ann Hui On-Wah / 許鞍華 (page at Wikipedia)

Mentions (cont’d)

12. Director John Woo / 吳宇森 (page at Wikipedia)

13. Director Tsui Hark / 徐克 (page at Wikipedia)

14. The film Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale / 賽德克•巴萊 directed by Wei Te-Sheng /魏德聖 (page at Wikipedia)

15. Taiwanese musician, actor and director Jay Chou / 周杰倫 (page at Wikipedia)

16. Taiwanese actress Shu Qi / 舒淇 (page at Wikipedia)

17. The film Summer Palace / 颐和园 directed by Lou Ye / 娄烨 (page at Wikipedia)

18. Exiled Czech author Milan Kundera (page at Wikipedia)

19. The film Blind Shaft / 盲井 directed by Li Yang / 李杨 (page at Wikipedia)

20. Actor Wang Baoqiang / 王宝强 (page at Wikipedia)

21. The film Lost in Thailand / 人再囧途之泰囧 directed by Xu Zheng / 徐峥 (page at Wikipedia)

22. The film Lost on Journey / 人在囧途 directed by Raymond Yip Wai-man / 葉偉民 (page at Wikipedia)

23. The film Planes, Trains and Automobiles directed by John Hughes (page at Wikipedia),_Trains_and_Automobiles

24. The film The Karate Kid (2010) directed by Harald Zwart (page at Wikipedia)

25. The film Ju Dou / 菊豆 directed by Zhang Yimou / 张艺谋 and Yang Fengliang / 杨丰良(?) (page at Wikipedia)

Raymond’s film recommendations from the last decade

26. The film The Sun Also Rises / 太阳照常升起 directed by Jiang Wen / 姜文 (page at Wikipedia)

27. The film Let the Bullets Fly / 让子弹飞 directed by Jiang Wen / 姜文 (page at Wikipedia)

Mentions (cont’d)

28. Raymond’s exclusive interview with Jiang Wen 姜文:把观众当作恋爱对象 (Jiang Wen: Treat the audience like a lover) for the literary magazine Harvest / 收获 (Chinese)

Part 1:

Part 2:

29. The film In the Heat of the Sun / 阳光灿烂的日子 directed by Jiang Wen / 姜文 (page at Wikipedia)

30. The film Devils on the Doorstep / 鬼子来了 directed by Jiang Wen / 姜文 (page at Wikipedia)

31. The film A Touch of Sin / 天注定 directed by Jia Zhangke / 贾樟柯 (page at Wikipedia)

33. The film Platform / 站台 directed by Jia Zhangke / 贾樟柯 (page at Wikipedia)

34. The Chinese language term fāngyán / 方言 (page at Wikipedia)

Notes: No direct English translation--or even a fixed Chinese definition--exists for this term. Attempts at approximating the term in English include “regionalect” and “topolect”. It is often incorrectly translated as “dialect”.

35. Sinica episode Alison Friedman on China and the Arts

36. China Oriental Song & Dance Ensemble / 东方歌舞团 English intro page

37. Director Feng Xiaogang 冯小刚 (page at Wikipedia)

38. Chinese film term hèsuìpiān 贺岁片 (page at Wikipedia, Chinese)

Note: A sub-genre of feel-good comedy films set during Lunar New Year.

39. The film Hero / 英雄 directed by Zhang Yimou / 张艺谋 (page at Wikipedia)

40. The film The Promise / 无极 directed by Chen Kaige / 陈凯歌 (page at Wikipedia)

41. The film The Banquet / 夜宴 directed by Feng Xiaogang 冯小刚 (page at Wikipedia)

Favorite movies (recommendations)

But first! Additional references:

42. Director and actor Stephen Chow / 周星馳 (page at Wikipedia)

43. Chinese film term: moleitau/wulitou (無厘頭), essentially “zany nonsense” (page at Wikipedia)


44. The film Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons / 西遊·降魔篇 directed by Stephen Chow / 周星馳 and Derek Kwok 郭子健 (page at Wikipedia)


45. The film Keep Cool / 有话好好说 directed by Zhang Yimou / 张艺谋 (page at Wikipedia)

Additional references:

46. Director Zhang Yimou Admits Violating China’s One-Child Policy by Brittany Hite and Kathy Tian for China Real Time

47. The film The Sound of Music directed by Robert Wise

48. The film Red Sorghum / 红高粱 directed by Zhang Yimou / 张艺谋 (page at Wikipedia)


49. The film The Story of Qiu Ju / 秋菊打官司 directed by Zhang Yimou / 张艺谋 (page at Wikipedia)

50. The film A Girl from Hunan / 湘女萧萧 directed by Xie Fei / 谢飞 and U Lan (??) (page at Wikipedia)

51. The film Peacock / 孔雀 directed by Gu Changwei / 顾长卫 (page at Wikipedia)


52. The film Still life / 三峡好人 directed by Jia Zhangke / 贾樟柯 (page at Wikipedia)

53. The film Back to 1942 / 一九四二 directed by Feng Xiaogang 冯小刚 (page at Wikipedia)

 said on
December 31, 2013
Wow, that is an incredible list of links! 你辛苦了。

Unfortunately, the link to the standalone mp3 download doesn't seem to be working!

Thanks in advance.

 said on
December 31, 2013
The link to the MP3 file doesn't link to an MP3 file.
 said on
December 31, 2013
It says "This title is not currently available for purchase" on the Kindle page on for Raymond's book linked above. Is there any other way to buy the English language version?
 said on
January 1, 2014
I'm inspired to go watch things now! What's the best way to get your hands on such movies, as a poverty stricken American college student?
 said on
January 1, 2014
@ bulgeros. Try Youtube, you can find a lot there.
 said on
January 2, 2014
Not a bad idea, I did watch "黃土地" on there ages ago. It was pretty hard to get through though.
 said on
January 2, 2014
I have found YouTube to be and excellent place to watch Chinese TV dramas. Just about everything is on there. I just finished 《后厨》which was quite good (IMO) and started《心术》the other day, which is about the doctor-patient conflicts taking place in today's society. There is even a podcast about this issue (an advanced one if I remember correctly) I also found the entire 76 episodes of《甄嬛传》on YouTube!

 said on
January 4, 2014
Excellent episode and one I'll need to listen to again to catch all the commentary.
 said on
January 4, 2014
great episode. makes me want to catch up on all the great stuff i missed over the years. what is the best site for streaming Chinese movies such as those mentioned please??
 said on
January 4, 2014
Trial and error got me this, but it'd be handy to have the link on the page corrected:

(if you have a download manager)
 said on
January 4, 2014
@tracksterman1967 - thanks, fixed.
 said on
January 6, 2014
安红。我想你想得睡觉..classic comedy
 said on
January 7, 2014
I was really glad to hear Raymond talk about the last line of Feng Xiaogang's '1942,' which I subtitled. Without weighing in on the merits of the movie one way or another, the most challenging thing about translating the film was that, as Raymond says, it's not really about what it purports to be about. It's obvious to any Chinese viewer -- including the wild and crazy guys at SARFT, who changed a bunch of lines at the last minute, necessitating new subtitles and re-timing -- but is not at all obvious to a foreign audience.
 said on
January 8, 2014
王小帅 deserves mention as an excellent director
 said on
January 8, 2014
@Brendan So what's it about really then? Disclosure please.

Jia Zhangke is my favourite Chinese Director, great to see him getting credited here. Sigh was good too. Don't know who directed. And what was that movie called which starts with the feckless Director of a Peking Opera troupe getting his money stolen after his bike crashes? It has some funny moments with iron-crotch qigong and cock-fights, if memory serves. Like those movies about everyday life in China. Anyone have some more recommendations?
 said on
January 9, 2014
Regarding everyday life: Check out 24城, a later documentary style movie by Jia Zhangke. It's available for free online :-)

I have to say I find it funny how Kaiser lashes out against the 18 guys called Dieter who are the only ones to enjoy banned movies - and then, did they mention any truly great movie that wasn't banned (Devils on the doorstep) or slightly censored (even Feng Xiaogang's latest movie!)

Suzhou river is my all time favorite so I get easily offended when people criticize Lou Ye!
 said on
January 9, 2014
@Davidwilljack: It is about the man-made famine during the great leap forward...
 said on
January 9, 2014
@davidwilljack: Yup, @康默 beat me to it. The most delicious thing about it is that once you know what it's really about, you realize that Chiang Kai-shek is really Mao Zedong.

Regarding the iron-crotch qigong movie: could it be Chen Daming's 鸡犬不宁?

"Touch of Sin" is, I think, kind of a nice reminder of how much promises of official reform and liberalization are worth. SARFT (or GAPPRFT or whatever they're called these days) told Jia Zhangke that the movie would be permitted screenings within China, made sure that he gave plenty of interviews in which he told foreign journalists that the movie wasn't being censored...and then changed their minds.
 said on
January 9, 2014
@Brendan: Thanks for that. I'll have another gander. And yes, it is the Chen Daming movie which I happily managed to find on the site verycd - great! So far have failed to find a DVD or Baidu link for 天注定。 Anyone had any luck with that? Pity that they shafted him; I've just been shafted yet again by a school failing to deliver on their promises for the umpteenth time. TIC. Maybe the putative new emphasis on 'morality' will bear some fruit down the line...flying pigs anyone?

@康默 Thanks for the link. Can't open it here; so a nice segue into yet another question - does anyone have a good FREE VPN they're using in China? Would be great to really expand this list of favourite China Mainland movies.
 said on
January 15, 2014
Interesting discussion of Tiny Times. I saw that movie with a 90后 Chinese friend and it was so overdone that it was almost humorous if it were not so sad to see the uncritical glorification of materialism.
 said on
January 15, 2014
This is from a review of the sequel by 精日传媒:

"As for the film itself, I’ll start with the positive: Tiny Times 2.0 tries to tackle deeper, more grown-up issues than its predecessor... But if Tiny Times 1.0 is HIV, then Tiny Times 2.0 is AIDS—more developed but not necessarily better."
 said on
January 27, 2014
+1 to Jeremy for the 有话好好说, watched it for that dongbei swagger and loved it. Time to start checking out the others on the list...
Mark Lesson Studied