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“We Are Alive”: Minor Transnationalism and Yau Ching’s Experimental Filmmaking

December 2 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm


Zhen Zhang


Zhen Zhang, Associate Professor
Department of Cinema Studies, New York University

Film to preview: We Are Alive (Huai hai zi, 壞孩子, 2010), directed by Yau Ching, Hong Kong

Part of the Fall 2021 Global Film Series, sponsored by the UB Confucius Institute and Center for Global Film, UB Department of English

View a PDF poster for the film series



Drawing from a book project on contemporary Sinophone women filmmakers, this talk discusses Hong Kong queer filmmaker Yau Ching’s documentary We Are Alive (2010), developed from therapeutic video workshops she and her team conducted with confined delinquent adolescents in Hong Kong, Macau and Japan. We Are Alive has been seen as “the least queer film” in her filmography and rejected by several LGBT+ film festivals. Yet, its engagement with the so-called “bad kids” (the films’ Chinese title) and their complex self-presentations questions dominant repressive moral strictures and criminal justice systems across several East Asian societies. In effect, the participatory, transformational and comparative project on juvenile delinquency, adolescent femininities and masculinities, and social conformity offers an instructive case study of minor transnationalism through a queer lens.

Zhen Zhang is associate professor at the Department of Cinema Studies of New York University. The main areas of her scholarly interests include Chinese-language film history in its cultural, aesthetic, political, and gendered manifestations, within the broad frameworks of modernity, modernism, and cosmopolitanism. Her first scholarly book, An Amorous History of the Silver Screen: Shanghai Cinema 1896-1937 (2005), articulates a cultural history of early Chinese cinema within the matrix of exuberant metropolitan mass culture in the early decades of the twentieth century. The interest in the dynamic relationship between the cinema and the city is also evident in the volume she edited, The Urban Generation: Chinese Cinema and Society at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century (2007). She has also been following and working on and with emerging independent film communities in China, especially in the advent of digital media. This long-term engagement has resulted in DV-made China: Digital Subjects and Social Transformations after Independent Film (co-edited with Angela Zito) published in 2015. Prof. Zhang’s ongoing projects include a volume on women directors of contemporary Chinese-language cinema and another book on the orphan imagination in transnational Chinese film history. She is also deeply interested in both historical and contemporary trans-Asian exchanges in film and media culture. She is the founding director of the Asian Film and Media Initiative (AFMI), which presents or co-sponsors screening programs and symposia and administers a minor in Asian Film and Media. The AFMI also pursues collaborations with NYU Shanghai and NYU Abu Dhabi, as well as other institutions. In addition to programing Reel China Documentary Biennial and other events at NYU, she has co-organized and guest-curated film programs for the Film Society at Lincoln Center of Performing Arts, Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Women Make Waves Film Festival in Taipei.


Chinese-language Cinemas: Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan
(Virtual Zoom talks and film screenings)

This weekly series of six virtual lectures and accompanying films is curated by Tanya Shilina-Conte, assistant professor of Global Film Studies in the UB Department of English and curator of the annual riverrun Global Film Series. This virtual series is cosponsored by the UB Confucius Institute and UB Center for Global Film.

To register and obtain links for the lectures and films, please email

Additional publicity materials are forthcoming.