Dr Victor Fan
Senior Lecturer in Film Studies
Tel +44 (0) 207 848 7479
Film Studies Department
King's College London
Research Interests PhD supervision
Victor Fan is Film Consultant of Chinese Visual Festival (London). Prior to his position at King’s, he was Assistant Professor at the Department of East Asian Studies, McGill University. Fan graduated with a Ph.D. from the Film Studies Program and the Comparative Literature Department of Yale University, and an MFA in Film and Television Productions at School of Cinema-Television (now School of Cinematic Arts), University of Southern California. He is the author of Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory, published in 2015 by the University of Minnesota Press. His articles have been published in peer-review journals including Asian Cinema, World Picture Journal, Camera Obscura, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, Screen, Film History: An International Journal, CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, anthologies A Companion to Rainer Werner Fassbinder and American and Chinese-Language Cinemas, film magazines 24 Images: Cinéma, Dianying yishu [Film Art], Zihua [Zifaa or Word blossoms], and Siyi. His film The Well was an official selection of the São Paolo International Film Festival; it was also screened at the Anthology Film Archives, the Japan Society and the George Eastman House.
Besides his academic career, Fan is also a working composer. He was a performance artist with his own theatre company Post [ET]2! in Hong Kong between 1993 and 1996. He also worked as a freelance sound editor, film composer and re-recording mixer, and later on with Fissionarts (Los Angeles) and Solar Film/Video Productions (NYC) between the late 1990s and the mid 2000s. In New York, he also wrote for the magazines Film Festival Reporter and Film Festival Today, covering news from the MIX Festival, the New York Underground Film Festival, the African Diaspora Film Festival and MOXIE Film.
• Comparative Film Theories and Philosophies (especially between Europe, North America, and China)
• Postcolonial Theories and Political-Juridical Philosophies in Relation to Cinema and Media
• Cinema and Media Theories and Histories
• Chinese and Sinophone Cinemas and Media (Shanghai and Hong Kong Cinemas in the 1930s and 1940s; Hong Kong Cinema between the 1930s and the Present; Contemporary Chinese Cinemas––Studio Productions and Independent Films; China-Hong Kong Coproductions; Taiwan and Tibetan Cinemas; Sinophone Queer Cinemas)
• Queer Cinemas, Medias, and Cultures
For more details, please see Fan's full research profile.
In Cinema Approaching Reality, Victor Fan brings together, for the first time, Chinese and Euro-American film theories and theorists to engage in critical debates about film in Shanghai and Hong Kong from the 1920s through the 1940s. His point of departure is a term popularly employed by Chinese film critics during this period, bizhen, often translated as “lifelike” but best understood as “approaching reality.” What these Chinese theorists mean, in Fan’s reading, is that the cinematographic image is not a form of total reality, but it can allow spectators to apprehend an effect as though they had been there at the time when an event actually happened.
Fan suggests that the phrase “approaching reality” can help to renegotiate an aporia (blind spot) that influential French film critic André Bazin wrestled with: the cinematographic image is a trace of reality, yet reality is absent in the cinematographic image, and the cinema makes present this absence as it reactivates the passage of time. Fan enriches Bazinian cinematic ontology with discussions on cinematic reality in Republican China and colonial Hong Kong, putting Western theorists—from Bazin and Kracauer to Baudrillard, Agamben, and Deleuze—into dialogue with their Chinese counterparts. The result is an eye-opening exploration of the potentialities in approaching cinema anew, especially in the photographic materiality following its digital turn.
Fan’s current book project is tentatively titled Extraterritoriality: Politics in Hong Kong Cinema. Hong Kong cinema and the critical discourse around it since the anticolonial Leftist Riots of 1967 have been largely discussed in postcolonial terms. Postcoloniality during the second half of the twentieth century can be understood as a process in which marginalized communities seek to reconfigure the colonial sociopolitical structure and cultural values that continued to evolve and flourish during the Cold War, and later on, under global capitalism. Historically, colonies in Latin America and Africa were once taken as “properties” by Euro-American “empires,” and then engaged in revolutionary or constitutional struggles to reclaim and rewrite their political subjectivities and agencies. In contrast, Hong Kong was constituted between 1842 and 1898 as an extra-territorial space, a trading port that has since then been neither completely outside nor inside the jurisdiction of China and Great Britain. Rather, it occupied a liminal position between an assemblage of conflicting sovereign claims, systems of law, linguistic practices, and cultural values that have posited the city as a site of contention and negotiation. Since July 1, 1997, Hong Kong has been reconfigured as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Though being under China’s sovereign authority, the SAR maintains a structure of differences with the larger national imagination, affective milieu, and sociopolitical system.
In this light, Hong Kong cinema is best understood as a public sphere where conflicting values produced by the city’s extraterritorial position are negotiated. More so, I argue that it can be scrutinized as an image-consciousness: an embodied experience that actively engages the spectators’ sense-perception. In so doing, the cinema rehearses, renegotiates, and reconfigures the affects of failure generated from Hong Kong’s extraterritorial position, one at which contesting sovereign claims and sociocultural values have rendered political subjectivization impossible. Such bodily engagement in the cinema and the critical discourse around it have allowed the Hong Kong spectators, as desubjectivized individuals, a “second chance”to rewrite the interdependent relationships that posit them in this extraterritorial position, thus suggesting new ways to come to terms with their political reality.
• Film Philosophy and Contemporary Hollywood
• Grassroots Marketing in Contemporary Hollywood
• Postfeminism in Contemporary Hollywood
• Chinese Martial Arts Cinema
• Chinese Independent Cinema
Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015); nominated for the Kraszna-Krausz Book Award (Moving Image).
“Poetics of Parapraxis and Reeducation: The Hong Kong Cantonese Cinema in the 1950s," in The Poetics of Chinese Cinema, eds., Gary Bettison and James Udden (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2016), 167–83.
“Free-Indirect-Discourse Reboot: Beijing Queer Independent Cinema as a Mediating Environment," Reconstruction 16, no. 2 (2016).
“Cultural Extraterritoriality: Intra-Regional Politics in Contemporary Hong Kong Cinema,” East Asian Journal of Popular Culture 1, no. 3 (September 2015): 389–402.
“The Poetics of Addiction: Stardom, ‘Feminized’ Spectatorship, and Inter-Regional Business Relations in the Twilight Series,” Camera Obscura 27, no. 1 (2012): 31–67.
For a complete list of publications, please see Victor's full research profile.
Expertise and Public Engagement
Fan maintains an active relationship with the media and the larger community. As Film Consultant of the Chinese Visual Festival (London), he works closely with major film festivals in London and Europe, and is a member of the Network of European Film Festivals on Asian Cinemas. He also gives public lectures and serves as interpreters and moderators for these film festivals, as well as the British Film Institute. Some of his major public engagements included two lectures at the BFI during the ‘A Century of Chinese Cinema’ season in 2014, translation for ‘Hou Hsiao-hsien in Conversation with Tony Rayns’ (also at the BFI) in 2015, and moderating for ‘A Conversation with Johnnie To’ at China Exchange (co-presented by the London East Asian Film Festival) in 2016. Recordings of many of these events are available online. In 2016, he also served as the Head Mentor of the Youth Jury at the Singapore International Film Festival. In addition to public events, screenings, and film festivals, Fan also gave interviews at FACULTI and the BBC. He also travelled frequently around Europe and Asia to give lectures and seminars in both university and public settings.