Buried Treasures of Chinese Silent Cinema
Screenings of three exceptionally rare Chinese silent films were accompanied by a discussion centred on the challenges of preserving China’s largely vanished silent-cinema heritage.

Offering an invaluable glimpse into China’s largely lost silent film heritage, this Higher Learning event highlighted recent efforts to seek out and restore Chinese silent films. A roundtable discussion featuring archivists, curators and scholars of Chinese cinema followed screenings of three exceedingly rare silent films restored by the China Film Archive. Spanning genres from slapstick comedy to historical romance, high tragedy to martial-arts epics, this trio of films illustrated the vast and excitingly diverse body of early Chinese cinema, and thus the importance of locating and restoring the invaluable fraction of it that still survives.

Other topics included: the politics of the archive, the significance of China’s progressive May 4th Movement and its impact on Chinese filmmaking, and the influence of Hollywood silent spectacles on Chinese martial-arts films, both silent and sound.

Archival screenings included: Laborer's Love (Zhi guo yuan), directed by Zhang Shichuan, released in 1922; Romance of the Western Chamber (Xixiang ji), directed by Li Minwei, release in 1927; and Red Heroine (Hongxia), directed by Wen Yimin, released in 1929.

Panelists included: Chen Biqiang, Senior Research Fellow at the China Film Archive; Hong Kong film critic, curator and researcher Sam Ho; and Bart Testa, Senior Lecturer at the Cinema Studies Institute, Innis College, University of Toronto. The discussion was moderated by Noah Cowan, TIFF Bell Lightbox Artistic Director.

In partnership with the Asian Institute at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto and the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada’s National Conversation on Asia, this Higher Learning event was held on June 8, 2013 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.