The mimetic nature of film gives it the ability to create a place in cinematic geographies that is bonded to particular time and spatial coordinates and tinted with historical and social contexts. As a practical example of such virtual recreation, a specific group of films were produced during the period of the 1930s-40s, all serving a place-making purpose: to portray a territory named Manchuria.
Manchuria, corresponding roughly to the current Northeast China geographically, was under the control of Imperial Japan as the puppet state of Manchukuo from 1932 to 1945. While Japanese architects planned its cities as a dreamscape of Far East modernisation, political architects relied on the use of media in cultural construction to promote the region to the wider world. Films produced by the South Manchuria Railway Company and Manchuria Film Association (1937—1945) mapped out Manchuria in a collection of moving images featuring its urban landscapes, customs and daily lives. However, after the Japanese retreated in 1945, the region's colonial past as Manchuria remains distant from the mainstream historical accounts of modern China, despite the glorious propaganda on screen.
How was Manchuria lived, experienced and picturised? Can we visualise its past, through film as a “live” medium? How has the absent Manchuria shaped the current cultural identity of Northeast China? With these questions in mind, this research uses film as a medium to contribute to the visual and experiential depictions of Manchuria in its past. The research sources available Manchuria films produced between 1932 and 1945 as the materials to illustrate the cinematic ukiyo-e (浮世絵) of Manchuria in the light of its contemporary urban cultural regeneration.