Master director Fei Mu's film classic "Confucius" (1940), recently rediscovered in Hong Kong, will be shown at the 33rd Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF). The film has been restored by the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) and the screening will share with audiences the result of initial preservation work by the archive.
"Restored Classic Confucius", presented during April, is one of the HKFA's major programmes. The first screening of the restored "Confucius", presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) in collaboration with the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, will be shown at the Grand Theatre of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre at 7.15pm on April 1. Family members of the filmmakers, Ms Barbara Fei and Professor Serena Jin, will greet the audience before the screening. Two other screenings will be held at 2.30pm on April 10 and April 19 at the Cinema of the HKFA.
To complement the screenings, two seminars will be organised at the Cinema of the HKFA. Ms Fei, Professor Jin and HKFA's conservation personnel Edward Tse Kin-fai and Koven Lo Kai-ming will outline the restoration work in the seminar "The Story of Confucius" at 2pm on April 5.
Writer Koo Siu-sun, Professor Li Ling of Peking University and Professor Cheng Pei-kai of the Chinese Civilisation Centre of the City University of Hong Kong will discuss various aspects of the film, including its historical context, cultural significance and aesthetics in the seminar "Confucius and Confucius" at 4.30pm on April 19. Both seminars will be conducted in Cantonese and Putonghua. Admission is free.
The HKFA is dedicated to collecting and preserving film materials to lay the foundation for studying the history and cultural heritage of Hong Kong cinema. As in the discovery of many lost treasures, the discovery of nitrate negatives of this 1940 classic was entirely by accident.
Restoration of the film is a complex, on-going project. The version shown next month will be in the original Movietone format, with a 1:1.16 aspect ratio. It involves copying the damaged nitrate material and fragments that had been broken off onto safety stock. Parts of the sound track are missing but Chinese and English explanations based on research conducted by the HKFA will be presented in subtitle form to help audiences follow the story. The restored film will also be shown with Chinese and English subtitles, put together after extensive research conducted by scholars commissioned by the HKFA. Nine minutes of loose footage will also be screened.
The archive is currently conducting research into putting the film back in its original narrative order and fitting the break-off scenes back into the film. This is a laborious process and once it is completed, the archive will again share the fruits of its efforts with the public.
"Confucius" is an extraordinary work that speaks of its time and our past. It was made by director Fei Mu during the "Orphan Island" period when much of Shanghai was overrun by the Japanese while China's screens were dominated by crude, maudlin costume dramas. With a mission to improve the quality of Chinese cinema, producers Jin Xinmin and Tong Zhenmin boldly invested an exceptional budget on the film.
As the debut feature of Jin and Tong's Min Hwa Motion Pictures, "Confucius" is remarkably formalistic, its austere mise-en-scene portraying the title character not with sensational heroics but sorrowful dignity.
The project was conceived in Hong Kong, where many filmmakers including Fei and Jin had fled during the war. Its rediscovery in Hong Kong after half a century offers again an evocative comment on our history.
Tickets for all screenings are priced at $30. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Counter bookings at all URBTIX outlets and Internet booking at www.urbtix.hk for all screenings are available from tomorrow (March 12). Phone reservations can be made at 2734 9009 from March 13.
Detailed information and various discounts can be obtained in the "ProFolio 46" and the "33rd HKIFF programme and booking folder" distributed at all performing venues of the LCSD. For programme enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900 or browse the websites: www.filmarchive.gov.hk or www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp .
Ends/Wednesday, March 11, 2009
A film still of "Confucius" (1940).
A film still of "Confucius" (1940).