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Biography

Biography: 

Victor Fan Fan graduated with a PhD 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. Prior to his position at King’s, he was Assistant Professor at the Department of East Asian Studies, McGill University. He is the author of Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory (University of Minnesota Press, 2015) and Extraterritoriality: Locating Hong Kong Cinema and Media (Edinburgh University Press, 2019). His forthcoming monograph, Cinema Illuminating Reality: Media Philosophy through Buddhism, will be published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2022.

Fan’s articles have been published in peer-review journals including Journal of Cinema and Media, Asian Cinema, World Picture Journal, Camera Obscura, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, Screen, Film History: An International Journal, CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, 24 Images: Cinéma, Dianying yishu [Film Art], Zihua [Zifaa or Word blossoms], Siyi, and many edited volumes. 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 also worked with film festivals in Europe and Asia (please see ‘Expertise and public engagement’).

Fan is a classically trained musician and 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. He worked at 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.

Research interests and PhD supervision

  • Comparative film and media theories and philosophies (between Europe, North America, China/Sinophone, and Asia)
  • Postcolonial film and media theories and philosophies
  • Chinese and Sinophone cinemas and medias
  • Queer Cinema and Media

For more details, please see his full research profile.

Selected publications

  • Cinema Illuminating Reality: Media Philosophy through Buddhism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2022, forthcoming).
  • Extraterritoriality: Locating Hong Kong Cinema and Media (Edinburgh: University of Edinburg Press, 2019).
  • Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015); nominated for the Kraszna-Krausz Book Award (Moving Image).
  • ‘Cinematic Imaging and Imagining through the Lens of Buddhism’, in New Takes on Film and Imagination, (ed.) Sarah Cooper, Paragraph: A Journal of Modern Critical Theory 43, no. 3 (November 2020): 364–80.
  • ‘Illuminating Reality: Cinematic Identification Revisited in the Eyes of Buddhist Philosophies’, in The Structures of the Film Experience by Jean-Pierre Meunier: Historical Assessments and Phenomenological Expansions, (eds) Julian Hanich and Daniel Fairfax (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019), 245–58.

Expertise and public engagement

Fan maintains an active relationship with the media and the larger community. Fan was Film Consultant of Chinese Visual Festival (London) from 2013–2021, and he was Head Mentor of the Youth Jury and Critics Programme of the Singapore International Film Festival in 2016 and 2018. He has also introduced/recommended films, conducted Q&A’s, or participated in roundtables at the BFI, the London East Asian Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Asian Film Awards Academy, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (Pordenone), and Edinburgh International Film Festival. He was also a member of the Network of European Film Festivals on Asian Cinemas.

Fan often gives both academic and public lectures and seminars. He also gave interviews at FACULTI and the BBC.

Teaching

Fan mostly teaches modules on film and media theory and philosophy, production, and Chinese/Sinophone cinema.

Monographs

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.