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Background

This project provides the first wide-ranging critical study of films about and by Asians in Australia, and by Australian filmmakers of Asia. The best way to adequately understand the field of Asian Australian cinema is to examine the mutually constitutive relationship between a history of the representation of Asian diasporas in Australia, and Asian Australian filmmaking. This project aims to chart the historical development of Asian Australian cinema to consider diasporic histories, the impacts of policies on representation, and the new aesthetic styles and production regimes created by filmmakers who have forged links, both through roots and routes, with Asia. It extends existing studies of Asians in Australian cinema that tend to discuss the representation of Asians as marginal and the cinema as multicultural. Rather than following this framework by categorising Asian Australian cinema under the rubric of national Australian cinema, this project offers a new approach by framing the cinema as diasporic and thus, transnational. The project's aims are aligned with three central research themes: History, Policy and Ethics.

History: utilising Australia's national film archives, the project will identify and analyse key moments in the development of films about and by Asians in Australia, and by Australian filmmakers of Asia. These moments will be documented through a number of contextualised case studies and provide a sophisticated understanding of the production and reception of Asian Australian cinema at important national and transnational junctures.

Policy: through an analysis of how immigration, film, cultural and creative industry policies have facilitated Asian Australian cinema's emergence and development, the project will develop an innovative theoretical framework for investigating Asian Australian cinema utilising a diasporic cinema studies perspective. This approach foregrounds the impact that government policies have had on the representation of Asians in Australian cinema, and will be of national benefit by creating a valuable resource for policy makers, promoting creative film innovation and adding an original intellectual framework to international film studies.

Ethics: as the first sustained and critical study of the representation of Asians in Australian cinema, the project will extend current theorisations on the representation of Asians that focus on the cultural hybridity of ethnic identity, by emphasising the ethics of ethnic identity. By using ethics to examine how identities are governed through historical developments, policy implementations and resource allocation, this project departs from existing debates about the identity politics of inclusion/exclusion, self/other, and sameness/difference, and highlights instead how ethnic Asian identities are negotiated through practices of official representation, group management and individual self-cultivation. This approach will benefit scholars and filmmakers by providing a new perspective on the ethics of recognition, justice and distribution.