Mini Film Festival

Ground-breaking Chinese director Evans Chan introduced a ‘mini film festival’ featuring three of his best-known movies, as part of the University of Birmingham’s fourth Arts & Science Festival.

The world-renowned director also answered questions on his works in discussions, led by guest hosts, after each screening of the movies.

The festival took place at mac Birmingham from 17 – 19 March, the screenings were presented in collaboration with the University’s China Institute and the Department of History.

Raised in Macao and Hong Kong, but now based in New York, Chan has presented, in both fiction and documentary features over more than two decades, an alternative exploration of key moments in Hong Kong and global Chinese culture.

The audience were treated to three of Chans most renowned films. The first screening was Datong: The Great Society. Hailed as a masterpiece, Datong: The Great Society focuses on modern China's first major utopian philosopher and earliest constitutional reformer, Kang Youwei (Liu Kai-chi) and his pioneering feminist daughter Kang Tongbi (Lindzay Chan). Kang and his daughter fled into exile for sixteen years following the Qing government’s crackdown on the political reform he initiated in 1898. Framed around their Swedish soujourn (1904–1908), Evans Chan’s docu-drama recounts Kang’s epic struggle to modernise China and his dream of Datong – the Chinese utopia.

Evans Chan introduced the film and Dr Shirley Ye of the Department of History at University of Birmingham hosted a post-screening discussion.


The second film was his directorial debut, To Liv(e) which sees Chan explore the plight of Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong.  An underground classic, Evan Chan’s widely acclaimed directorial debut is inspired by Norwegian actress, Liv Ullmann’s, visit to Hong Kong in 1990, where she decried the forced deportation of Vietnamese refugees. Following the life of protagonist Rubie, and capturing the bohemian fringe of the Hong Kong arts scene, Chan examines love, family, the fate of Hong Kong, and the culture clash between East and West.

Evans Chan introduced the film and Hermann Aubié, PhD Candidate at the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku, Finland, hosted the discussion afterwards.

The third film was the amazing Sorceress of the new piano, the artistry of Margaret Leng Tan.


Ten years in the making, Chan's documentary celebrates the trans-cultural career of Singapore-born, New York-based pianist Margaret Leng Tan. Hailed by The New Yorker as "the diva of avant-garde pianism", Tan was the world's first professional toy pianist and a preeminent performer of John Cage’s music for the last three decades. Chan's “exemplary documentary” (Time Out Film Guide) makes avant-garde music — that of George Crumb, Philip Glass, Tan Dun, Somei Satoh, and others — engaging and exciting.

Dr Shirley Ye of the Department of History at the University of Birmingham said: “I’m delighted that we are able to welcome Evans Chan to Birmingham. This is a rare opportunity to watch these thought-provoking movies and question the director about how he made these acclaimed pieces of art.”

The University of Birmingham’s Arts & Science Festival was a week-long celebration of research, culture and collaboration. This year the festival explores ‘memory and forgetting’ and brings together leading artists, thinkers and scientists for a free programme of concerts, exhibitions, performances, screenings, talks and workshops.