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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Dr Kiki Tianqi Yu


Senior Lecturer in Film

Room Number: ArtsOne G.25C


After receiving an MPhil in social political science at Cambridge University, Kiki pursued her doctorate research on documentary film and personal cinema with a focus on China at CREAM, Westminster University. Examining how philosophies in non-western cultures and approaches in other disciplines enhance our understanding of global cinema, her research, in theory and practice, are often interdisciplinary and echo the ethos of decolonising film studies.

Kiki’s works include three strands:

One area is cinema and moving images through eastern philosophies. She is currently engaging cinema with Daoism, building a theoretical framework to explore cinema aesthetics, ethics and practices through Daoist philosophy, and constructing a comparative dialogue with film phenomenology and posthumanist thinking.

The second area is documentary image and nonfiction film, especially on first person documentary, essay film, amateur cinema, production culture and sustainable filmmaking.

The third area is women’s cinema and localised feminism, artists moving image, and independent cinema culture, with a focus on China and Asia at large (East, South, Southeast, Central and West Asia).

Kiki was invited as a keynote speaker at European Network for Cinema and Media Studies (NECS) annual conference 2018, and she is also a founding co-convener of BAFTSS East Asian Screen Cultures Special Interest Group.

Kiki’s first monograph ‘My’ Self on Camera: First Person Documentary Practice in an Individualising China (Edinburgh University Press, 2019a) investigates filmmaking as social practice through cultural-sociological perspective. It argues that the Confucian concept of the relational self still largely underpins how individuals understand the self, and analyses how filmmakers make socially and culturally rooted ethical and aesthetic choices. She also co-edited China’s iGeneration: Cinema and Moving Image Culture for 21st Century (Bloomsbury, 2014), and ‘Women’s First Person Documentary in East Asia’ a special issue of Studies in Documentary Film (with Alisa Lebow, 2020).

As a filmmaker, her first feature documentary China’s van Goghs (co-directed with Haibo Yu, 2016) involves art history, labour politics, and globalization, asking: could the act of copying be a path towards originality? Funded by IDFA Bertha fund, Denmark International Support, Dutch Film Fund, Shenzhen Cultural Fund, CBC, DR, etc, the film did very well after its completion. It has been shown at over 30 international festivals, won 8 awards, theatrically released in France, Japan, Hong Kong and Italy, and received very positive reviews in the Hollywood ReporterArtnetde VolkstrantVPRO, etc. Her film works also include Photographing Shenzhen (2006), Memory of Home (2009) which were shown at various festivals and collected by DSLCollection, and Yale Film Centre.

Kiki also produced Jia Yuchuan’s 17 years’ production Two Lives of Li Ermao (2019) which premiered at IDFA 2019, and won the best Audience’s award at Royal Anthropology Institution Film Festival 2021. Through Jia’s intimate personal lens, the film traces the life of a transgender Chinese migrant worker, Li Ermao, on her transitioning from being male to female, then back to male.

As a curator, Kiki programmed “Polyphonic China”, the first UK screenings of Chinese independent documentaries by Zhao Liang, Zhou Hao, Fan Jian, at Regent Cinema London in 2008-2009, “New Generation Chinese Film” at Celiphlia West London in 2010, and “Memory Talks” screenings including films by Wen Hui and Lynne Sachs, in Shanghai 2017. Kiki frequently writes column articles in English and Chinese for a wider readership.

She welcomes PhD applications related to her research interest. Please see more in ‘Research’ page.



  • FLM4205 Decolonising Approaches to Film Analysis (co-convene with Ashvin Devasundaram)
  • FLM6037/FLM7037 Cinema and Eastern Philosophies
  • FLM6210 –Cinemas in Contemporary China
  • SMLM035 – MA Film Studies Core Module


Research Interests:

  • Non-western film theory and film philosophy
  • Cinema and eastern philosophies
  • Practice-based research
  • Various aspects of Documentary and nonfiction film, including first person documentary, essay film, amateur cinema, and found footage
  • Sustainable cinema and filmmaking
  • Women’s cinema and women filmmakers
  • Chinese language cinemas
  • East Asian Cinema and artist moving image



  • Special Issue of Studies in Documentary Film: “Women's First Person Documentary Practices from East Asia: Some local Feminist Approaches”, co-edited with Alisa Lebow, March. 2020
  • ‘My’ Self On Camera: First Person Documentary Practice in an Individualising China, Edinburgh University Press, 2019
  •  China’s iGeneration: Cinema and Moving Image Culture for 21st Century, co-edited with Matthew Johnson, Keith Wagner, Luke Vulpiani, Bloomsbury, 2014

Films :

  • The Two Lives of Li Ermao (dir. Jia Yuchuan, 2019), producer, 87 min, World Premier IDFA 2019
  • China’s van Goghs (2016), producer and co-directed with Haibo Yu, 82 min, World Premier IDFA 2016
  • Screened at Vision Du Reel, DocPoint, Thessaloniki Film Festival, DMZ DOCS International D-Cinema Festival Japan, Moscow Film Festival, Beijing International Film Festival, BFI, V&A, etc.
  • Memory of Home (2009), director, 10 min, Essay Film, collected by DSLCollection, screened at Candid art gallery London
  • Tube (2009), director, 1 min, installation, 2010 World Expo City Culture Pavilion
  • Photographing Shenzhen (2006), director & producer, 30 min, Discovery
  • Children of Tibet (2005), director & cinematographer, 30 min

Journal articles, book chapters, and reviews:

  • Editor’s “Introduction”, in Special Issue “Women's First Person Documentary Practices from East Asia”, Studies in Documentary Film, 2020
  • "In conversation with Wen Hui", in Special Issue “Women's First Person Documentary Practices from East Asia”, Studies in Documentary Film, 2020
  • “First Person Expression on ‘non-western’ Screens  - a case on China” in Creative Practice edited by Agnieszka Piotrowska, Edinburgh University Press, 2020
  • “Image-Writing: The Essayistic/Sanwen in Chinese Nonfiction Cinema and Zhao Liang’s Behemoth (2015) ”, in World Cinema and the Essay Film, edited by Brenda Hollweg and Igor Krstic, Edinburgh University Press, 2019
  • “Documentary”, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, Vol.10: 1, 2016
  • Co-written with A. T. McKenna. ‘Internationalising Memory: Traumatic Histories and the PRC's Quest to Win an Oscar', in Chinese Cinemas: International Perspectives, edited by Felicia Chan and Andy Willis, Routledge, 2016
  • “Camera Activism in Contemporary People's Republic of China: Provocative Documentation, First Person Confrontation, and Collective Force in Ai Weiwei's Lao Ma Ti Hua”, Studies in Documentary Film, Vol.9:1, 2015
  • “Chinese Photography & Surrealism - Walking at the Extreme Edge of Rationality” in Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, Vol. 2:1, 2015
  • “Going Global – Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival 2013”, Studies in Documentary Film, Vol. 8:1, 2014
  • “An Inward Gaze at Home: Amateur Documentary Filmmaking in Contemporary China” In Amateur Filmmaking: The Home Movie, the Archive, the Web, edited by Monahan Barry, Laura Rascaroli and Gwenda Young, Bloomsbury, 2014
  • “Towards a Communicative Practice: First Person Filmmaking in Twenty-first century China.” In China’s iGeneration: Cinema and Moving Image Culture for Twenty-first Century, edited by Johnson et al., Bloomsbury, 2014
  • Co-written with Keith Wagner: ‘Introduction: China’s iGeneration Cinema: Dispersion, Individualization and Post WTO Moving Image Practices.’ In China’s iGeneration: Cinema and Moving Image Culture for Twenty-first Century, edited by Johnson et al., Bloomsbury, 2014


Current PhD Supervision:

Yuehan Liu: “Exploring the representations of space in Asian slow cinema”

Co-supervised with Dr Anat Pick and Ashvin Devasundaram

Srikrupa Vedal: practice-based research that explores women’s shared traumatic experience of domestic and sexual abuse in India through interactive, collaborative and participatory filmmaking.  

Co-supervised with Dr Libby Saxton


Wanzhou Xiao: Cinema is metaphor: The use of essay filmmaking to explore metaphors in war films

Co-supervised with Dr Guy Westwell


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