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CinemaTalk: a Conversation with Michael Berry

dGenerate Films presents CinemaTalk, an ongoing series of conversations with esteemed scholars of Chinese cinema studies. These conversations are presented on this site in audio podcast and/or text format. They are intended to help the Chinese cinema studies community keep abreast of the latest work being done in the field, as well as to learn what recent Chinese films are catching the attention of others. This series reflects our mission to bring valuable resources and foster community around the field of Chinese film studies.

Michael Berry is Associate Professor of Contemporary Chinese Cultural Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of the BFI Film Classics monograph Jia Zhang-ke’s Hometown Trilogy, which offers extended analysis of the films Xiao Wu, Platform, and Unknown Pleasures; A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film, which explores literary and cinematic representations of atrocity in twentieth century China; and Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers, a collection of dialogues with contemporary Chinese filmmakers including Hou Hsiao-hsien, Zhang Yimou, Stanley Kwan, and Jia Zhangke. Also an active literary translator, Berry has translated several important contemporary Chinese novels by Yu Hua, Ye Zhaoyan, Chang Ta-chun, and Wang Anyi. Current literary translation projects include the modern martial arts novel The Last Swallow of Autumn (Xia Yin) and Wu He’s (Dancing Crane) award-winning novel Remains of Life (Yu Sheng), a fascinating literary exploration of the 1930 Musha Incident, which was honored with a 2008 NEA Translation Grant.

In this conversation with dGenerate’s Kevin Lee, Michael shares his insights on Jia Zhangke, specifically his career development since the “Hometown Trilogy” and his recent controversy at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Be sure to read Jia’s statement of withdrawal from the Melbourne Film Festival as a point of reference.

Play the Podcast (Time: 17:39)

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Download it here (right-click to download, file size: 8.2 MB).

Get a list of Michael’s publications and a timecoded index of topics covered in the interview after the jump.

Interview Topic Index

0:00-0:51 – Introduction 0:51-4:00 – Jia Zhangke’s career development 4:00-7:45 – Jia’s recent controversy at Melbourne 7:46-11:45 – Jia as a political filmmaker 11:45-15:20 – Moving beyond the mavericks 15:20-17:30 – Distributing the digital revolution

Selected Publications by Michael Berry

Book Length Translations by Michael Berry

  1. The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai, by Wang Anyi. Translation by Michael Berry and Susan Chan Egan, with an Afterword by Michael Berry (Columbia University Press, 2008).

  2. To Live by Yu Hua. Translation and Afterword by Michael Berry (Anchor Books, 2003).

  3. Nanjing 1937: A Love Story by Ye Zhaoyan. Translation and introduction by Michael Berry (Columbia University Press, 2002, Faber & Faber, 2003, Anchor Books, 2004).

  4. Wild Kids: Two Novels about Growing Up by Chang Ta-chun. Translation and introduction by Michael Berry (Columbia University Press, 2000).


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