NETPAC Board member Shaoyi Sun’s 58 years of life came to a sudden ending on August 12, 2019 after being diagnosed with liver cancer last November. His departure leaves his film students at Shanghai Theater Academy’s School of Film and Television without their likable and caring Professor who shared his knowledge with clarity and good humor. It also leaves his colleagues, including many NETPAC members, shocked and sad to lose a friend who could always be counted on to tackle challenges with a responsible, common-sense approach and fun.
Born and raised in Shanghai, Sun received his Ph.D. in 1999 in Asian literature and film from the University of Southern California (USC) where he later taught Chinese film, literature and cultural studies. He also taught at the University of California at Irvine, Shanghai University, and New York University in Shanghai.
I met Shaoyi in May, 1999 when he was a USC student and hired him to assist me in starting an Asia Pacific Media Center (APMC) at USC’s Annenberg Center for Communication. Help, he did, and continued after APMC morphed into Asia Pacific Films, a company that streamed curated films from Asia and the Pacific Islands to educational institutions. He wrote insightful concise essays about the cultural and cinematic content of films from China that we were streaming, as well as helped license films from China. Importantly, in 2011 he wrote several essays on Xie Fei and his films that continue to be popular with students, educators and general public.
After Asia Pacific Films was sold in 2012 to Alexander Street, a ProQuest Company, he continued helping up until as recently as Sept 2018 by curating films and facilitating communication with Chinese filmmakers. Always dependable and loyal, Shaoyi became more than my colleague. He was a dear friend.
It was inevitable that through our friendship he would learn about and then become active in NETPAC; first as a member of NETPAC/USA and then in March, 2012 he was elected to be on NETPAC’s international Board of Directors representing China. He served as a NETPAC jury member of the following Film Festivals:
2001 & 2002 – Hawaii International Film Festival
2007 -Brisbane International Film Festival
2009 –(Chair) Singapore International Film Festival
2011 Bangalore International Film Festival,
In addition, he was invited to be a jury member of the 2000 Dhaka International Film Festival; 2008 International Student Shorts Competition in the Shanghai International Film Festival and the 2011 Singapore International Film Festival.
Shaoyi’s first published book Lights, Camera, Kai Shi! was written with film archivist Li Xun and debuted in 2008. UK based film scholar Chris Berry wrote that it is “an excellent introduction to the contemporary Chinese film industry in the age of the market economy …and… introduces a new generation of Chinese film directors to the world.”
He is also the author/editor of New Media and Cultural Transformation (Shanghai Joint Press, 2013), Spectrum of History and Cultural Topography: Transnational Relation between Hollywood and Chinese-Language Cinema (Guangxi Normal University Press, 2012), The Matrix of Cinema: Cinematic Space and Cultural Globalism (Fudan University Press, 2010), The Imagined City: Literary, Filmic, and Visual Shanghai, 1927-1937 (Fudan University Press, 2009), Structural Transformation of the Media Industry in Asia (co-editor; Shanghai Joint Press, 2009), Global Media Policies: New Perspectives (co-editor; Shanghai Joint Press, 2005) and the Chinese translator of Rey Chow’s Primitive Passions: Visuality, Sexuality, Ethnography and Contemporary Chinese Cinema (Taipei: Yuan-Liou Publishing Co., 2001)
It’s clear Shaoyi Sun’s life work will continue to influence and inform future generations about Chinese film and culture. We, his friends, will have to do the best we can to come to terms with his early, abrupt departure from our lives. Perhaps Shaoyi offered us the best advice on how to deal with this in an October 23, 2011 email he sent to me shortly after the shocking sudden death of his friend, the Dean of Shanghai University, Jin Guanjun. Shaoyi wrote this
Thank you so much for your nice words. This is really a great loss to the school, also a great loss to me. I still don't believe he has left. Anyway, life goes on and we must take care of ourselves and value every moment of our life. My best regards, Shaoyi
-- Jeanette Paulson Hereniko