In 2012, the Film Archive acquired from San Francisco some immensely precious 1930s and 40s Hong Kong motion pictures, which subsequently went through preliminary repair work and then 2K digital scanning. Among them, director Lo Duen's Follow Your Dream (1941) has been selected for digital restoration. To celebrate the retrieval of these treasures, these hard-to-find gems will be brought to audiences in March, not only at the Archive but also at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza in two free open-air screenings.
Today, it has become more necessary than ever to look back on the past for a better future. These vintage films, which bear witness to all the trials and tribulations Hong Kong society had been through in the 1930s and 40s, offer lots of food for thought. Of the eight titles we are presenting, apart from The Light of Women (1937) and Incident in the Pacific (1938) which were released last this year in "Transcending Space and Time – Early Cinematic Experience of Hong Kong" programme, the remaining titles are all new discoveries that have yet to see the light.
These eight titles have filled many of the voids in Hong Kong cinematic history. Be it directorial knowhow, aesthetic achievement, humanistic value, scope of production, or significance in terms of genre and screenplay, these works show clear traces of the legacy passed down by their predecessors. Incident in the Pacific and Fortress of Flesh and Blood (1938), two "national defence" films by Hou Yao, are exemplars of one's resolution to protect the country against foreign aggression. Ko Leihen's White Dragon, Part Two aka The Platinum Dragon, Part Two (1937) and Yeung Kung-leong's Bitter Phoenix , Sorrowful Oriole (1947), early film works by Cantonese opera greats Sit Kok-sin and Ma Si-tsang, are both attempts to integrate Chinese operatic art with the melodrama and detective thriller in Western motion picture. Lo Duen's Follow Your Dream and Hung Suk-wan's The Rich House (1942) are realistic and romantic portrayals respectively of social realities in wartime Hong Kong.
These precious titles are valuable memorabilia of an era long gone, and tell a lot about the film industry in the 1930s to 40s. In order to deepen the public's awareness and understanding of these films, we have consolidated the analytical efforts of a number of renowned and experienced scholars, who will not only conduct serious research on the film, write an in-depth essay on their point of views, but also host post-screening seminars and select a reference film for comparison purpose. The Film Archive would like to express our utmost gratitude to Law Kar, Wong Ain-ling, Sam Ho, Mary Wong, Yau Ching, Lau Yam and May Ng for their efforts in dissecting and analyzing the cultural and historical contents of these newly discovered moving images.
In retrospect, the storytelling techniques, mise-en-scene, as well as development of genres in Hong Kong cinema are all, to a certain extent, influenced by these early gems.
We owe our special thanks to Mr Jack Lee Fong, owner of the Palace Theatre in San Francisco which had been home to these nitrate films since the theatre opened its doors in the 1970s. If not for his tireless efforts over the decades as a guardian, these gems would not have survived to this day.
The presenter reserves the right to change the programme should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary.