Woman, Demon, Human (人鬼情 Rén Guǐ Qíng)
Introduction by Judith Zeitlin, Professor, East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Hailed as the first truly feminist film made in China, this lightly fictionalized bio-pic of a northern Chinese opera star, Pei Yanling, turns the story of a girl who bucks tradition by specializing in martial male roles, particularly the exorcist god Zhong Kui, into a complex psycho-drama of gender and identity. Written and imaginatively directed by Huang Shuqin, one of China’s few female directors at the time, the film features a dazzling performance from Pei Yanling herself as Zhong Kui in the opera sequences, complete with flame spitting and acrobatics.
(Huang Shugin, China, 1987, 16mm, 108 min, print courtesy of University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive)
Judith T. Zeitlin is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Theater and Performance Studies, and the College at the University of Chicago. Her numerous publications include The Phantom Heroine: Ghosts in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Literature (2007) and a special issue of The Opera Quarterly on Chinese opera film (2010), co-edited with Paola Iovene. She is also the co-curator of the exhibition Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture at the Smart Museum of Art, and faculty festival director of Envisioning China: A Festival of Arts and Culture.
Chinese Opera Film Series
This film series presented as part of the University of Chicago's Envisioning China: A Festival of Arts and Culture. From the magnificent art and spectacle of Chinese opera to rarely screened silent films and world premiere performances, the Envisioning China festival opens a window on the rich cultural heritage of China, past and present. Sponsored by the Smart Museum of Art, Film Studies Center, UCArts, Logan Center for the Arts, and the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, with additional support from the Chinese Consulate General in Chicago and the China Film Archive.