Date of Award

Spring 2-2024

Document Type

Thesis (Master's)

Department or Program

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Mark Williams

Second Advisor

Kristin O'Rourke

Third Advisor

David Rezvani


This thesis examines a selection of the most notable Chinese films that interacted with Chinese censorship regulations. Contemporary Chinese cinema has found itself in one of the most interesting situations in the present day. After the glorious1990s and 1980s New Wave movement Chinese cinema has diminished in terms of influence, style, and international recognition. And it is due to the strict censorship enforced since the beginning of the century. In this project, the author analyzes some of the most notable names in Chinese cinema: Jia Zhangke, Jiang Wen, Lou Ye, etc., most of whom were victims of the Chinese Film Administration’s strict censorship. It is in their collection of works that the author attempts to decipher the changing identities of autearistic styles in response to censorship, and various attitudinal and semiotic measures taken to circumvent the harsh creative environment. In turn, the evolving censorship under different eras of Chinese political leaderships bears different principles regarding the constant challenges organized by the viewers and auteurs. At last, the emerging new generation of filmmakers has also evolved yet another category of cinematic language as a product of the current political dynamic, which is quietly thriving yet understudied.

This thesis fits under the cultural studies’ cross-disciplinary approach to interpreting cultural phenomenons, which examines the shared cultural experience of two generations of filmmakers and viewers, drawing from areas of media studies, political sciences, and cinema studies. By conducting a close analysis of films, policy changes, and journalistic pieces surrounding the topic, this thesis broke down the strategies taken by the sixth-generation movement in filmmakers to reflect and assign senses of political subversions, counter-mainstream ideologies to their works, including head-on combats, semiotic satirism, and reconstruction of the past. Such traditions would be inherited in the upcoming filmmakers in the South China New Wave movement; and they have developed more sophisticated storytelling techniques, identified by a lingering suspension of temporalities, nostalgic times, and obsession with generational pessimism. As such, the context of the changing creative environment has cultivated some of the most innovative filmmaking, and outside-the-box thinking, despite the path being full of compromises.