Beijing is, perhaps surprisingly, a city that has a long film history. In the area south of Tiananmen Square called Dashilar that was the old entertainment districts there is one of China's oldest theaters, called Daguanlou and dating back over a 100 years. Beijing was filmed in the 1930's, in these series of black and white films.
Beijing is home to the Beijing Film Academy, which has produced celebrated directors such as Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, and Jia Zhangke. Thus, Beijing is the heart of the Chinese film industry and becoming more and more a favored sight for Hollywood productions. Keanu Reeves and the RZA have both filmed movies here recently, as well as the recent remake of the Karate Kid starring Jackie Chan and Will Smith's son.
Large film studios exist out in the suburbs, complete with replicas of ancient villages and other dynastic remnants. Beijing is also home to the National Film Museum, a giant complex of exhibits and one of the world's largest IMAX theaters. Most importantly is that China's Film Bureau, also known as the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (国家广播电影电视总局) is headquartered here. This ministry controls what types of films are made in China, as well as what foreign films are released in China. Hollywood is always trying to get more films into the Chinese market. At the moment it is limited and releases are controlled in order to promote the local industry, for instance removing foreign films during peak times. China is also coming to Hollywood, with entertainment firms brokering joint deals and productions.
Some key films that represent Beijing include Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor (1987), which tells the story of the end of the Qing Dynasty, Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubine (1993) about a Beijing Opera star, Lou Ye's Summer Palace (2006) about student idealist during the Tian'anmen protest, the independent film by Wang Xiaoshuai Beijing Bicycle (2001) which tells the story of a countryside migrant searching for his lost bicycle around the city, Shower (1999) about a Hutong bathhouse being closed down as the city is urbanized, and Lanyu (2001) China's first filmed gay romance that was based on a book called Beijing Story. Contagion is a short animated film produced by the Beijing Film Academy.
Each of these, and many more, depicts a changing and growing city throughout the last century, filled with political turmoil and change, growth and expansion, the loss of old cultural contexts and the input of new ones.
The following paths are some more specific examples of films that represent the theme of migration and global cities.
Begin this path: Beijing Film
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