Five Month Retrospective at BFI London: A Century of Chinese Cinema

This five-month season at the BFI sees a collection of films from across the century of Chinese cinema from the first Chinese-produced film which appeared in 1905 to the films being shown in the new and distinct national cinemas of Mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

With the first movie theatres opening in Beijing in 1907, and the first studio producing film in 1909, it was 1913 that saw the first almost feature length production though this has sadly now been destroyed. With the political chaos that turned Chine upside down in the early 20th century, little remains of this early work.

This five month retrospective of work seeks to look into the national identity of Chinese cinema and look at films from “The Golden Age” to “A New China”. Working with the China Film Archive, Chinese Taipei Film Archive and Hong Kong Film Archive, the collection of work on show is both eclectic and comprehensive in its approach to the Film industry and the films themselves.

Known as the ‘Golden Age’ the 1930s in Shanghai saw a surge in art, cinema being one of the areas that flourished even under strict censorship of the government. The cinema championed progressive ideals and innovation. The BFI presents arguably the best film of the Golden age of Chinese Cinema Fei Mu’s 1948 masterpiece Spring in a Small Town. Catch screenings from 19 June until 17 July. Freshly restored, the film is “a study of adulterous desire and guilt-ridden despair”

Other screenings throughout June and July include Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero and Drunken Master looking into the development of the martial arts films from their early beginnings in the late 20s where they were banned for being subversive and promoting “superstition and moral decadence” to their resurgence and popularity that runs to this day.

For a full list of films shown in June and July please visit:

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1. Still from Spring in a Small Town (1948) Fei Mu. Courtesy of the BFI