CSI undergrad, Ron Ma was a finalist for U of T Libraries Undergraduate Research Prize

June 20, 2019 by Denise Ing

For the second year in a row, an essay written for CIN201Y1 - Film Cultures I has been selected as a finalist for the U of T Libraries Undergraduate Research Prize. Last year, An Li Tsang's essay on the rise of colour film in Hollywood was recognized. This year, Ron Ma's essay on Mao Zedong's mass criticism campaign against the film, The Life of Wu Xun, was honoured.

Professor Brian Jacobson encouraged his CIN201Y1 students to submit their essays to the competition, and thought Ron's essay was a strong example of great research. "Ron’s paper offers a rich, archivally supported analysis of the 1950 film The Life of Wu Xun," said Prof. Jacobson.

"I was particularly impressed with how the essay used the story of this single film to address broader questions about film’s cultural and political significance in the early years of the PRC. As Ron’s paper shows, Chinese political leaders and cultural critics recognized film’s value not just as entertainment but also as an instrument of persuasion that could teach audiences critical political messages. Ron’s essay does a wonderful job drawing out this implicit recognition, and he could only do so by using the range of primary source materials collected for this essay. I was thrilled that the jury recognized the essay’s many merits and awarded Ron one of this year’s prizes."

Ron chose his essay topic to make use of his fluency in English and Chinese, and to take advantage of the wealth of resources at the Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library. It was at the East Asian Library that Ron accessed microfilm of the Chinese newspaper, People's Daily. Ron also consulted with Innis Librarian, Kate Johnson on requesting interlibrary loans for newspapers stored in the US.

"It was an honor to receive the award and to be among the company of other wonderful undergraduate scholars," said Ron. "If possible, I'd like to express my gratitude to Professor Brian Jacobson, my TA, Erin Nunoda, and the Innis Librarian, Kate Johnson for helping me at different stages of my research process, giving me invaluable advice on how to conduct and analyze my research."

Ron was awarded one of six $1000 prizes at the award ceremony in early June. His reflective statement and research paper were uploaded to TSpace, the University of Toronto's research repository. It can be found at tspace.library.utoronto.ca/handle/1807/95410.

Cinema Studies Undergraduate Coordinator, Prof. James Cahill attended the award ceremony. "All of this year's student winners were truly impressive," recalled Prof. Cahill.

"Ron's research into the shifting reception of The Life of Wu Xun (1950) is insightful and innovative.The entire CSI community should be proud of this impressive feat. Without taking anything away from Ron's singular accomplishment, I think the fact that this is the second year in a row that our students have won this highly competitive prize is also a testament to the fantastic teaching in CIN201—by Professor Jacobson and Ron's TA, Erin Nunoda—who empowered Ron and his classmates to do primary research and understand themselves as contributing directly to cinema and media history."