China Seminar | 9 January 2014

Chinese Lawyers on the Silver Screen

Alison W. Conner Alison W. Conner

Legal issues feature in so many American movies that they have generated an academic field of their own. Perhaps few movie characters appear as often as lawyers, and trial and courtroom scenes are staples of both serious and popular entertainment. In China, the fifth and sixth generations of filmmakers have brought contemporary Chinese films to international attention, and their themes often illustrate broad legal concerns. Yet some of the most intriguing treatments of the Chinese legal system—and lawyers—appear in movies made before 1949, during a “second golden age” of Chinese film. This talk will analyze two of the most famous movies of the late 1940s, Long Live the Missus (1947) and Bright Day (1948). In both movies, a lawyer is a central character, and although the films are very much the product of their time and place, they offer visions of model lawyers that remain relevant to the Chinese legal profession today.

Alison W. Conner is Professor of Law and Director of International Programs at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai`i/Mānoa, where she teaches courses on Chinese and comparative law. She earned her PhD degree in Chinese history from Cornell and her JD degree from Harvard Law School. Before joining the University of Hawai‘i in 1995, she taught law in China, Singapore and Hong Kong for twelve years; in 2004, she also returned to teach at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. Her recent articles focus on the Chinese legal profession and depictions of the legal system in pre-1949 Chinese movies, including “Don’t Change Your Husband: Divorce in Early Chinese Movies,” and “Images of Justice (and Injustice) in the Movies of Xie Jin.”