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Keywords: Ethics and Feminism | Desiring Feminism

ZENG Jinyan; Translator: FAN Xiang


This article analyses a series of ‘Desiring China: Sexuality and Female Subjectivity’ screening and discussion of Chinese independent documentary films at the University of Hong Kong in 2016. It explores a feminist positionality in Chinese independent documentary film to deal with privacy, gender, violence, and trauma, including: 1) the filmmaker’s position on the ethics of care and (intimate) solidarity with protagonists; 2) the protagonist’s position of confession and appeal in reclaiming autonomy from gender based violence and discrimination; 3) the filmmaker’s and the protagonist’s different positions on reducing documentary’s negative impact on protagonist’s personal life through controlling distribution; 4) the evolving positions of protagonist and filmmaker on self-transformation and re-opening for screening; 5) the activist position of representation in politics and filmmaking’s position of representation in arts; and 6) tensions between theory and practice that require scholars, filmmakers, and activists to situate and contextualise ethics for discussion and practice.

This article argues for the need to adopt a feminist ethics of care when producing, exhibiting, and critiquing documentaries about women and social margins in contemporary China. It promotes equal power relationships among documentary participants, and innovations of cinematic language, to deal with ethical dilemmas and the potential limitations of filmmaking and of exhibiting Chinese independent documentary films.