Performing Colonial Identity

Dong Hoon Kim

in The Oxford Handbook of Japanese Cinema

Published in print January 2014 | ISBN: 9780199731664
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Performing Colonial Identity


This chapter examines byeonsa, a voice performer/narrator who provided live narration for silent films, and its role in the development of film culture in Korea under Japanese colonial rule. Through the discussion of this filmic practice, which originated from Japanese benshi, this article ultimately interrogates questions and problems in historicizing both Korean and Japanese national cinemas in the colonial context. In particular, it explores the ways in which modes of exhibition were inextricably tied to the construction of national cinema, nationalism, and national identity. By investigating Korean film spectators’ attempts to decode and resignify the meanings of film texts and the byeonsa’s role as a mediator between those texts and Korean audiences, therefore, the essay elucidates the physical and discursive formations of colonial and national cinema at the sites of film exhibition and consumption.

Keywords: Korean motion pictures; Japanese motion pictures; motion picture history; Byeonsa; Benshi; film; exhibition; Japanese imperialism; Korean nationalism

Article.  7312 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Film

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