Chinese director’s movie magic comes to Birmingham

Ground-breaking Chinese director Evans Chan will introduce a ‘mini film festival’ featuring three of his best-known movies, as part of the University of Birmingham’s fourth Arts & Science Festival. The world-renowned director will also answer questions on his works in discussions, led by guest hosts, after each screening of the movies.

 Taking place at mac Birmingham from 17 – 19 March, the screenings are presented by the University’s China Institute and its Department of History.

Raised in Macao and Hong Kong, but now based in New York, Chan has presented, in both fiction and documentary features over more than two decades, an alternative exploration of key moments in Hong Kong and global Chinese culture.

The films being screened at mac Birmingham, in Cannon Hill Park, are:

·         Datong: The Great Society;

·         To Liv(e); and

·         Sorceress of the New Piano – The Artistry of Margaret Leng Tan.

Dr Shirley Ye of the Department of History at the University of Birmingham said: “I’m delighted that we are able to welcome Evans Chan to Birmingham. This is a rare opportunity to watch these thought-provoking movies and question the director about how he made these acclaimed pieces of art.”

Datong: The Great Society is the director’s most recent critical hit – a thought-provoking re-examination of the official narratives of the 1911 Revolution.

His directorial debut To Liv(e) sees Chan explore the plight of Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong, whilst the exquisite musical performance of Margaret Leng Tan in Sorceress of the New Piano is an exploration of artistic crossover and global Chinese identity.

 This year the festival explores ‘memory and forgetting’ and brings together leading artists, thinkers and scientists for a free programme of concerts, exhibitions, performances, screenings, talks and workshops.

These include Professor Alice Roberts – author, broadcaster and anatomist – discussing her latest BBC series The Celts; a discussion on how to commemorate world-changing events in the 21st century; and a series of exhibitions and events reflecting on Birmingham’s past.


Thursday 17 March, 20.00 – 22.30

DATONG: THE GREAT SOCIETY [2011, 118 mins] In Cantonese, Mandarin, English and French with Chinese and English subtitles

Hailed as a masterpiece, Datong: The Great Society  focuses on modern China’s first major utopian philosopher and earliest constitutional reformer, Kang Youwei (Liu Kai-chi) and his pioneering feminist daughter Kang Tongbi (Lindzay Chan). Kang and his daughter fled into exile for sixteen years following the Qing government’s bloody crackdown on the political reform he initiated in 1898. Framed around their Swedish soujourn (1904–1908), Evans Chan’s docu-drama recounts Kang’s epic struggle to modernise China and his dream of Datong – the Chinese utopia.

Evans Chan will introduce the film and Dr Shirley Ye of the Department of History at University of Birmingham will host a post-screening discussion.

Friday 18 March, 14.00

TO LIV(E) [1992, 107 mins] Cantonese and English with Chinese and English subtitles

An underground classic, Evan Chan’s widely acclaimed directorial debut is inspired by Norwegian actress, Liv Ullmann’s, visit to Hong Kong in 1990, where she decried the forced deportation of Vietnamese refugees. Following the life of protagonist Rubie, and capturing the bohemian fringe of the Hong Kong arts scene, Chan examines love, family, the fate of Hong Kong, and the culture clash between East and West.

Evans Chan will introduce the film and Hermann Aubié, PhD Candidate in the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku, Finland, will host a discussion after the film.

Saturday 19 March, 20.00 – 22.30


Ten years in the making, Chan’s documentary celebrates the trans-cultural career of Singapore-born, New York-based pianist Margaret Leng Tan. Hailed by The New Yorker  as “the diva of avant-garde pianism”, Tan was the world’s first professional toy pianist and a preeminent performer of John Cage’s music for the last three decades. Chan’s “exemplary documentary” (Time Out Film Guide) makes avant-garde music — that of George Crumb, Philip Glass, Tan Dun, Somei Satoh, and others — engaging and exciting.

Evans Chan will introduce the film and Dr Richard Langley of the Department of Film at University of Birmingham, will host a post-screening discussion.

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