Inspired by the 1930s rise of the mingxing 明星 or bright star screen diva, the Art Gallery of NSW’s free film series Starburst celebrates four trailblazers in the arena of Chinese film.
Featuring actresses Ruan Lingyu, Anna May Wong, Maggie Cheung and Zhao Tao; Starburst will travel cinematic history from Shanghai silent cinema, golden age Hollywood, the Hong Kong New Wave and contemporary mainland China.
Progressing chronologically, Starburst begins with a showcase of Ruan Lingyu and Anna May Wong’s star-making 1930s careers. Before her tragic suicide at age 24, Lingyu was the original screen goddess, taking China’s silent film scene by storm; while Wong, born in LA, became celebrated as the first Chinese-American star of Hollywood, as she used her platform to promote on-screen diversity and inclusivity.
Half a century later, the Hong Kong New Wave cinematic movement revived the lulling Chinese film industry in the 80s. Starburst’s next icon, Maggie Cheung, was borne out of this era, coming to fame via her star-making turn as none other than Ruan Lingyu in the biopic Center Stage. A lauded actress who won a Cannes Best Actress award in 2004, Cheung came to typify a new type of transnational Chinese film star.
Starburst rounds out its tour of Chinese film iconography with Zhao Tao, a modern-day actress renowned for her nuanced portrayals of femininity in contemporary China.
Over the course of 10 weeks, Starburst traverses the film reels of history, focusing on four inspiring and strong actors who have blazed trails as women of colour in an industry which frequently underrepresents such groups. If you're a film lover or just keen on adding a touch of arts and culture to your life over the next two months, get around it - and don't forget, best of all, it's free.
Starburst runs from June 20 to August 26, with screenings on Wednesdays at 2pm and 7.15pm, and Sundays at 2pm. For the full program and further details on the films to be shown, visit the AGNSW website: https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/calendar/film-series-starburst