Mystery still surrounds the earliest film ever made in China – recently discovered in a shop basement in the north of England. Young men in mandarin attire laugh and joke as they glance at the camera, eyeballing the 21st century viewer from the time of the Qing Dynasty. Since those gentlemen were recorded on celluloid, China has experienced nearly 120 years of momentous change.
These first fleeting images are part of a unique collection of early films at the British Film Institute (BFI), covering every facet of Chinese life from the time of the Boxer Rebellion to the Communist victory in 1949.
With unique access to the BFI National Archive, this 2-part documentary shows films never seen before this outside the UK. The best of these extraordinary images are worked into a compelling narrative to reveal new insights into this period of tremendous change and turmoil in China. Voiced by renowned cinematographer Christopher Doyle, the films capture a pre-CCP China in vivid motion.