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A Century of Chinese Cinema @ BFI

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
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From The Golden Age to Samurais

When you think of popular Chinese films, one's first thoughts are probably of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, but the history of China's film industry has far more depth than a bit of kung fu fighting, and dates much further back in time.

China got its first taste of the cinema in 1896, when the Lumière brothers arrived on tour. The first Chinese film then followed nine years later in 1905. This pre-dates their first movie theatre that opened in 1907 in Beijing. Seemingly doing things a bit backwards yet again, it was not until 1909 that the first Chinese film studio was founded in 1909. But is the date of their first full length feature that the BFI want to celebrate, and that was in 1913.

A Century of Chinese Cinema is a five-month festival exploring three areas of the Chinese film industry. The Golden Age looks at Shanghai during the 1930s. It was an era when old-age taboos were shattered, and progressive ideals were introduced. The thirties also saw new narrative structures and visual techniques.

A New China looks at the influences of the Chinese Communist Party after its victory in 1949, while Swordsmen, Gangsters, Ghosts explores the evolution of genre cinema from the 1960s to present day.

Tickets are between £8.15 - £10.50, and there are multiple screenings of the films.

The Golden Age

On the 17th June there will be an Introduction to A Century of Chinese Cinema from the curator of the festival, Noah Cowan.

Laborer's Love & Romance of the Western Chamber

Red Heroine

Spring in a Small Town

A New China

In the Face of Demolition

New Year's Sacrifice

Parents' Hearts

This Whole Life of Mine

Red Detachment of Women

An Unfinished Comedy

The Love Eterne

Li Shuangshuang

The East is Red

Two Stage Sisters

Red Crag: Life in Eternal Flame

Execution in Autumn

The Arch

The Winter

China Behind

Swordsmen, Gangsters, and Ghosts

On the 7th July there will be an illustrated lecture on Martial Arts Cinema and its Transnational Evolution given by Leon Hunt.

Wong Fei-hung: The Whip That Smacks the Candle

One-Armed Swordsman

The Story of a Discharged Prisoner

Fist of Fury

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

Drunken Master

Drunken Master 2

Long Arm of the Law

A Touch of Zen

Police Story

A Chinese Odyssey (Part I: Pandora's Box)

A Chinese Odyssey (Part II: Cinderella)

Once Upon a Time in China

Once Upon a Time in China 2

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon


Infernal Affairs


Election 2

The Banquet
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Why? Fun for film lovers
When: Until 1st Oct
Phone: 020 7928 3232
Where: BFI Southbank
Cost: £8.15-£10.45
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