Towards a Cognitivist Appreciation of Empathy and the Animal Face on Screen: A Case Study of Lu Chuan’s Born in China
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AbstractThis article adopts a cognitivist approach to the analysis of the Chinese filmmaker Lu Chuan’s wildlife documentary, Born in China (2016). It has been argued in the field of cognitive film studies that the use of the human face, through the agency of film techniques, remains a significant aspect in the cinema when it comes to eliciting viewers’ emotions. Equally important is the use of the animal face on film, which, however, has received scant academic attention. Expanding upon cognitive media theory, this article seeks to closely examine the correlation between the animal face on screen and the empathetic emotions triggered in viewers, thus proffering a new understanding of documentary film. The first section of the article argues that the animal protagonists in Lu’s film are usually considered by humans as “cute” animals, and because of their unique physical facial structures and expressions, these animals are very effective at embodying such positive qualities as playfulness and friendliness, which, in turn, easily induce a perception of cuteness and thus our empathetic response. The second section looks into documentary’s specific mediality, and suggests that viewers’ belief in the actuality of documentary is governed by a set of heuristic principles that facilitate the emergence of a specific emotional response to representations of animals when they are watching documentary. The last section is a discussion of how the close-up in the film is emotive in its utilisation of an animal face to produce what psychologists would refer to as “singularity effect”.
Acceptance Date09/03/2019
All Author(s) ListTang Sum Sheung Samson
Name of ConferenceThe 13th Asian Cinema Studies Society Conference
Start Date of Conference24/06/2019
End Date of Conference26/06/2019
Place of ConferenceLASALLE College of the Arts
Country/Region of ConferenceSingapore
LanguagesEnglish-United Kingdom
KeywordsAnimals, Born in China, cognitive theory, documentary, empathy, emotional contagion, face, Lu Chuan

Last updated on 2020-18-05 at 15:43