School of Social Sciences

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Margherita Viviani

Phone: (+61 8) 6488 3963
Fax: (+61 8) 6488 1167


Start date

Jan 2008

Submission date

Aug 2011

Margherita Viviani

Margherita Viviani profile photo


Video and social change: Independent documentary filmmaking in post socialist China


1. Every year in China hundreds of independent documentaries (duli jilupian) are produced outside the national television system without direct commercial purpose. They are mostly unknown to the general public as they are neither aired on television or widely distributed.

2. In the last few years, independent documentaries started dealing with topics such as self-governance, social scandals and civil rights, themes that are ignored or marginalized in official discourse in present China. Many of them share a social value, linking themselves to the worldwide use of documentary for social activism and empowerment.

3. My doctoral research focuses on these kinds of social documentaries produced in the last six years. The question I pose here is: can we retrace a social impact of independent video documentary cinema in China, and at which level?

4. In order to explore this issue, I focused my attention on specific documentary projects which comprise historical documentary, investigative-style documentary, activist video documentary and community or participatory video projects.

5. From this research, independent filmmaking stands out not only as innovative for its content and style, but also for representing a new, alternative grassroots medium in China. It also interacts with the emerging civil society and it is used as a tool of social advancement and to provoke social change.

Why my research is important

The present research wants to record one of the most vibrant Chinese social phenomenon, closely linked to the emerging civil society, civic awareness and social activism. These are very interesting aspect of a society which is experiencing a time of great social and economic changes. My research aims to fill this missing link between the cinematic perspective and social issues of independent documentary films through the lenses of contemporary mass media and cultural studies


  • IPRS International Students scholarship