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Dare not Say Women Are Not Heroes: Biographic Films on Qiu Jin and Biopic Theories

Abstract: This paper initiates a systematic study on film biographies on Qiu Jin, the first modern feminist in China who died for the cause of national salvation in the last years of Qing Dynasty. A wide spectrum of biographic films on Qiu, from the late Republican era to the most recent adaptation in 2011, demonstrates the complexity and empowerment of Qiu as well as the enduring interest in her in the history of Chinese film. The paper first explicates why Qiu Jin has become the most adapted figure in Greater China. In addition to Qiu’s characteristics and the uncanny history with which she had been involved, the filming of her and her multi-faceted life has fostered into a “hyper-canon”---a canonical text that has continuously been edited, adapted, rectified, and rediscovered due to its ambiguity, complexity, polysemy, and even self-contradiction. The various films on Qiu Jin have also revealed different biographic modes and narratives such as femininity and revolution, wen and wu, family melodrama and commercialization in mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. By engaging with these films and related theories, I also hope to carve out the outlines and prospects of Chinese biographic genre.

Keywords: Biographic Film modes; Qiu Jin, Hyper-canon; Females, Revolution

Author: Lunpeng Ma receives his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from Stony Brook University. He is currently Assistant Professor of Chinese at VMI in which he taught a variety of literature, film, and popular culture courses on China. His main academic interests are in modern and contemporary Chinese cinema, film history and theory, Chinese literature, East Asian studies, and critical theory.