An overwhelming response to the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s "Restored Classic Confucius" has resulted in two additional shows. All three screenings scheduled for April were sold out and the extra screenings will be at 7pm on May 3 and at 7.30pm on May 17 at the Cinema of the HKFA.
Film critic Lau Yam and scholar Louie Kin Sheun will lead discussions after the screenings on the history and aesthetics of this archival treasure on May 3 and May 17 respectively.
The HKFA is dedicated to collecting and preserving film material to lay the foundation for studying the history and cultural heritage of Hong Kong Cinema. Director Fei Mu's film classic "Confucius" (1940) had been lost for many years. Its nitrate negatives were recently discovered and restored by the HKFA.
Restoration of the film is a complicated on-going project. The version shown at present is in the original Movietone format, with a 1:1.16 aspect ratio. Restoration work involves copying onto safety stock the damaged nitrate material and fragments that had broken off. 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 trying to put 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.
To complement the screenings, two seminars will be organised at the Cinema of HKFA. At 2pm on April 5, family members of the film's producer, Ms Barbara Fei and Professor Serena Jin, as well as the Archive's conservation personnel, Edward Tse Kin-fai and Koven Lo Kai-ming, will outline the restoration work at the seminar "The Story of Confucius."
At another seminar "Confucius and Confucius" to be held at 4.30pm on April 19, 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.
"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. The film is remarkably formalistic, its austere mise-en-scene portraying the title character not with sensational heroics but with 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 priced at $30 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Reservations can be made at 2734 9009 or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk .
Ends/Tuesday, March 31, 2009