Cinedigm is partnering with Mark Yellen Productions and Rosenbloom Entertainment to produce a multi-season, episodic series about feminist and adventurer Emily Hahn, the literary author who introduced Shanghai and greater China to U.S. audiences through her articles published in The New Yorker magazine in the 1930s.
The indie home entertainment distributor, which is majority owned by Hong Kong-based Bison Capital, is using its Chinese connections to begin shooting in 2019 on location in Shanghai and Hong Kong, taking advantage of Shanghai’s Bund waterfront, which has one the richest collections of Art Deco architecture in the world.
The series will be released in the U.S. and China through both physical and digital media.
“Emily Hahn was a charismatic, unconventional free spirit who wrote about her experiences with courage and compassion,” Chris McGurk, CEO, Cinedigm, said in a statement. “Now is the perfect time to re-introduce audiences to the vibrant, complex, and intriguing world of 1930s Shanghai from a uniquely female perspective.”
A feminist trailblazer before the word existed, Hahn wrote hundreds of articles and short stories for The New Yorkerfrom 1925 to 1995, as well as fifty-two books in many genres, most notably China to Me and The Soong Sisters.
Hahn, who died in 1997 at the age of 92, led a most unconventional life – especially for a woman in the 1930s and 40s.
She was the first woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in mining engineering – choosing the field after a professor reportedly told her, “The female mind is incapable of grasping mechanics or higher mathematics or any of the fundamentals of mining taught” in engineering.
Prior to graduating, Hahn drove across the country in a Model T Ford dressed as a man, chronicling the trip in letters to her brother-in-law – who, recognizing her literary talent, then forwarded them to The New Yorker.
That was the beginning of a life that would include stints in the Belgian Congo, living with a pygmy tribe for two years and crossing central Africa solo on foot.
Hahn’s time in Shanghai from 1935 through 1941, included the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong in 1941. Captured by the Japanese during World War II, Hahn taught Japanese officials English in exchange for food. She was repatriated in 1943.
Like chapters out of Casablanca, Hahn was romantically involved with numerous high-profile men, including Victor Sassoon, Chinese poet and publisher Shao Xunmei, and Charles Boxer, head of British intelligence in Hong Kong, with whom she had two children after the war.
Ever the nonconformist, Hahn would later write that Shao got her addicted to opium. “Though I had always wanted to be an opium addict, I can’t claim that as the reason I went to China,” she wrote.
“Emily was able to champion female empowerment and embrace cultural diversity at a time when those concepts were completely alien to most, making it very relevant in today’s climate of change,” said Chip Rosenbloom, president of Rosenbloom Entertainment.