This project explores first person DV documentary filmmaking practice in China in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Building on existing studies of first person filmmaking in the West, which predominantly analyse filmic self-representation on the textual level, this study addresses two themes: the film text as an aesthetic and cultural object that constructs a self; and the filmmaking as a practice and a form of social participation, through which individual filmmakers as agents actively construct representations of their own selves and their subjectivities.
Focusing on the work of nine filmmakers, including Yang Lina, Shu Haolun, Hu Xinyu, Wu Haohao, and Ai Weiwei, I argue that these films illustrate the makers’ individual selves as multi-layered and conflicted, situated in complex familial and social relationships, and in the changing relations between individuals and the state. In addition, this practice can be seen as a form of provocative social participation in the era of ‘depoliticised politics’, that stimulates important individual critical thinking and helps to form a new kind of political subjectivity, to reconstruct political value and reactivate the political space in China. These films and the filmmaking practice not only reflect some aspects of the changing concept of individual self in contemporary China, but can be seen as a generative and constructive process, that further contribute to the changing constitution of the individual subject in China.
Through close textual analysis of this body of first person films and this filmmaking practice, I demonstrate features of the complex changing relations between the public (gonggong) and the private (siren) space, between the collective (jiti) and the personal (geren), and between the individual (geti) and the party-state (dangguo) in post-socialist China. The project aims to contribute to current debates in the international field of first person filmmaking, and to studies of contemporary China.