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Kiki Tianqi Yu - writer, filmmaker, curator

Based around Kew Garderns, Kiki enjoys her time with trees, her two Chinese-English mixed race daughters and her film historian husband.

余天琦 Kiki Tianqi Yu was born in Henan, central China in 1985, and in 1994 she moved to Shenzhen, the first special economic zone, that shares the border with Hong Kong. Together with her migrant family, she experienced the transformation of Shenzhen from a small fishing village to a great metropolis famous for its world-leading high-tech, design and marine biology industries. Growing up with an artist-photographer father, a musical mother, and a pianist brother, Kiki is deeply in debt to this artistic environment and migration culture that treasure traditional Chinese thought and western modernity. 

Kiki went to London when she was 19. The spirits of migrants she grew up with made her embrace the new identity of Londoner with ease. As one of few East Asians in the largely white film class, she soon found her strength and received 1st Class in BA (Hons) in Film and TV Production at the University of Westminster. Her graduation film was commissioned by Discovery Asia. With the desire to deepen her understanding of the world as a filmmaker, she continued her postgraduate studies in social political science at Cambridge University where she resided at Newnham College. Enjoying the combination of intellectual debates and creative practices, Kiki then pursued her doctorate research in film with AHRC scholarlship at the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM), Westminster University.


Kiki is now Senior Lecturer in Film at the Department of Film Studies, Queen Mary University of London, where she teaches Decolonising Approaches to Film Analysis, Cinemas in contemporary China and Cinema and Eastern Philosophies, and supervises projects on documentary, women's cinema and East Asian cinemas. Prior that, she spent exciting four years working and living in China, first at Nottingham University Ningbo China, and USC-SJTU Joint-institute of Cultural and Creative Industries based in Shanghai. During this period, she completed her first feature length documentary China's van Goghs (2016) with her father Haibo Yu. 


Kiki is currently working on her “Daoism and Cinema” project. Situating global cinema and artists’ moving images within contemporary debates of Daoist philosophy, political ecology, East Asian art history and decoloniality, this project aims to build a new theoretical framework to understand cinema and film practice through Daoist correlative and transformative cosmology. Intervening the western centred posthumanist theorisation of cinema and culture, and critically engaging with Chinese schools of thought, it seeks to reformulate what cinema is and what cinema can do through Daoist cosmology, shedding new lights on how to reconceive humans’ relationship with cinema, and how to make sense of the existence of things through cinema. 

As a curator, Kiki programmed Polyphonic China (2009), the first UK screenings of Chinese independent documentaries by Zhao Liang, Zhou Hao, Fan Jian, at Regent Cinema London, New Generation: Independent Chinese Film (2010) at Celiphlia West London, Memory Talks (2017) screenings including films by Wen Hui and Lynne Sachs, in Shanghai, and The Spirit of “Mountains and Water” - Gao Shiqiang’s moving image art through Cosmological thinking (2023) at BLOC Cinema and Gallery, Queen Mary University of London. 

Kiki welcomes intellectual discussions on cinema, moving image art, and film's relationship with various things. She regularly write column articles for a wider readership and happy to provide consultancy to festivals and filmmaking. 

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