Tang, Xiao-bai Emily

Critical Biography    Filmography    Reviews    Links   Bibliography

Tang, Xiao-bai Emily – Critical Biography  Top

Emily Tang
Emily Tang

Emily Tang was born in 1970 and grew up in Beijing. She received a BA from the Department of Western Languages and Literature in Peking University, and went on to complete a master’s degree from the Chinese National Academy of Arts. After working for a period of time in the corporate world, she began studying a directing program at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing in 1998, and embarked on a full time filmmaking career. Her debut film, Conjugation (2001), was released the same year she immigrated to Hong Kong. Conjugation was the first Chinese film to directly reference the Tiananmen Square crackdown and won a special mention for direction at the 2001 Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland. Tang’s second film, Perfect Life (2008) is about two women – the fictional Yueyang, who lives in Shenyang, China, and the real-life Jenny, who lives in Hong Kong. The film is a blend of fiction and documentary, as each woman’s story is told intertwined with one another, but in stylistically different ways.[1] Perfect Life won the Dragon and Tigers Award for Young Cinema at the 2008 Vancouver International Film Festival. The film was pulled last-minute from the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival in protest against the showing of the Uighur documentary 10 Conditions of Love and a scheduled appearance by Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled leader of China’s Uighur ethnic group.[2] Tang’s third film, All Apologies (2012) – although stylistically more mainstream – references the topic of China’s one-child policy. The accidental death of a couple’s only son results in the father raping the wife of the man whom he thinks is responsible, in order to repay the lost life; a plot which addresses the particular stresses regarding reproduction within the familial structure of a traditional Chinese family.

Emily Tang’s talent and choice of story shows her dual interest in Hong Kong and China. It has garnered her critical praise on the international film festival circuits and built her reputation as a Chinese female filmmaker. However, in an interview with Tess Van Hemert in 2009, she stated that she does not identify specifically as a feminist or women’s filmmaker. This opinion seems to stem more from the belief in a story’s universality and transcendence beyond the gendered perception, and in the abilities of a filmmaker regardless of their sex, than a rejection of feminism in filmmaking. Writing of her interview with Tang, Van Hemert concludes that, “It is therefore important to acknowledge that notions of ‘feminism’ and ‘feminist’ approaches to filmmaking can have very different meanings for different women” (9). Tang does not shy away from dealing with taboo subjects in her films, which makes her an interesting director to watch in the future.

[1] Please refer to the Cinema Scope article by Shelly Kraicer for a detailed analysis of this film’s style.

[2] Different news sources make various claims that the producers, directors and the Chinese Government were responsible for the decision to pull Perfect Life and two other Chinese films from the Melbourne International Film Festival. While it remains uncertain who made the call, it is useful to note that other Chinese films set to replace them were also withdrawn without explanation.

filmoFilmography   Top

Feature Films:

Role Title (English) Title (Chinese) Year
All Apologies 愛的替身 2012
Perfect Life 完美生活 2008
Conjugation 動詞變位 2001

reviewReviews   Top

All Apologies (2012):

Chinese Films – Film Review: All Apologies

Film Business Asia – All Apologies

Screen Daily – All Apologies

The Hollywood Reporter – All Apologies: Hong Kong Review

Time Out Shang Hai – Chinese films to watch in 2014

Twitch Film – VIFF 2012 Wrap-Up: All Apologies, A Mere Life, and In the Name of Love

Variety – Review: ‘All Apologies’


Perfect Life (2012): 

Cinema Scope – The Problem of Representation: Emily Tang’s Perfect Life

Uno Port Art Film – “Perfect LIfe” Dir. Emily Tang (Hong Kong-China)

Vancouver International Film Festival – 2008 – PERFECT LIFE

Variety – Review: ‘Perfect Life’

World Socialist Web Site – Vancouver International Film Festival 2008—Part 1

文匯報 – 《完美生活》唐曉白跨界 行動的開始  (Chinese only)


Conjugation (2001):

Cinema Scope – The Decade in Review

Jump Cut – Dialogues with critics on Chinese independent cinemas

Senses of Cinema – The Pusan International Film Festival – Mature and Independent

China Digital Times – 禁片收錄 (Chinese only)

朝不保夕 – 絕望過後的同感外延——訪《動詞變位》唐曉白   (Chinese only)



Electric Sheep Magazine – 7th China Independent Film Festival

Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival – Xiaobai TANG: I’m obsessed with filmmaking

旺報 – 最有政治勇氣的女導演 唐曉白  (Chinese only)


linkLinks   Top

Hong Kong Movie Database – Emily Tang Xiao-Bai

IMDB – Xiaobai Tang


biblioBibliography   Top

  1. “Independent Chinese Films at the HKIFF.” China Perspectives 81 (2010): 80-84. Print.
  2. Bao, Ying. “Remembering the Invisible: Soundscape and Memory of 1989.” Journal of Chinese Cinemas 7.3 (2013): 207-24. Print.
  3. Berry, Michael. “Beijing 1989.” A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film (2008): 333-341. Print.
  4. Bloom, Michelle. “Transnational Chinese Cinema with a French Twist: Emily Tang Xiaobai’s “Conjugation” and Jia Zhangke’s “the World” as Sinofrench Films.” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 21.2 (2009): 198-245. Print.
  5. Bordeleau, Erik. “What Remains of Tiananmen?: Postpolitical Reduction to Bare Life in Emily Tang’s Conjugation (2001).” Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies 37.1 (March 2011): 83-98. Print.
  6. Li, Cheuk-to, Ain-ling Wong, and Jacob Wong. “New Chinese Cinema at the Hkiff. A Look Back at the Last 20 Years.” China Perspectives 2010/1 (2010): 78-84. Print.
  7. Van Hemert, Tess. “Searching for a Feminist Voice: Film Festivals and Negotiating the Tension between Expectation and Intent.” Ejournalist: A Refereed Media Journal 11.1 (2011): 1-13. Print and web. < http://ejournalist.com.au/v11n1/VanHemert.pdf>
  8. Vanderstaay, Lara. “A Textual Analysis of Female Consciousness in Twenty-First Chinese Women Directors’ Films.” PhD thesis. The University of Queensland, 2010. Print.