Malayanized Chinese-language cinema: on Yi Shui’s Lion City, Black Gold, and film writings
ABSTRACT This article discusses how the Singaporean Chinese director, Yi Shui, created a Malayanized Chinese-language cinema during the Fifties and Sixties, and offers a retrospective of the way people in Malaya and Singapore framed their nation-building discourse in terms of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism after the Bandung Conference in 1955. This article holds that the term huayu dianying (Chinese-language cinema) was not first used in the 1990s by scholars in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but that its origins can be traced to Singapore and Malaya in the 1950s where Yi Shui promoted Malayanized Chinese-language cinema in the Nanyang Siang Pau. This earlier use of the term “Chinese-language cinema” overlaps with its current academic usage, including films in Mandarin and Chinese dialects. In 1959, Yi Shui’s essays were collected in On Issues of the Malayanization of Chinese-Language Cinema. Yi Shui also directed several Malayanized Chinese-language films. This article analyzes his “Chinese language cinema” film practice by examining the discourses surrounding the “Malayanization of Chinese-language cinema” in order to show that his semi-documentary Lion City and the melodrama Black Gold attempted to mediate the misunderstandings rooted in the national boundaries and politics of various dialect groups through a “multi-lingual symbiosis” of Chinese languages.
KEYWORDS: Chinese-language cinema; Yi Shui; Malayanization; the Third World; The Lion City; Black Gold
Wai Siam HEE is Assistant Professor of Chinese and film at Nanyang Technological University. He has written extensively on the cinematic and gender issues, with articles in the Journal of Chinese Cinemas and Frontiers of Literary Studies in China. He is the author of From Amorous Histories to Sexual Histories: Tongzhi Writings and the Construction of Masculinities in Late Qing and Modern China. He has co-edited two books, including Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Corporeality, Desire and The Ethics of Failure and Memorandum: A Reader of Singapore Chinese Short Stories. He is currently working on a research project on the early history of Sinophone Cinemas in Singapore and Malaya (1926-1965).