The Goddess: Re-mastered Chinese silent-film

The KT Wong Foundation, in association with the BFI and China Film Archive (CFA), will screen a remastered version of classic Chinese silent film The Goddess this autumn at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank.

This exclusive UK premiere will take place on 14th October 2014 as part of the prestigious BFI London Film Festival – one of the world’s leading cinema events.

To celebrate this historic moment the KT Wong Foundation has commissioned a new musical score for The Goddess by Chinese composer Zou Ye. The evening screening of the film will therefore be accompanied live by the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Chalmers.

The Goddess is an iconic classic of Chinese film, and represents a high watermark for the country’s art.

It was originally filmed in Shanghai in 1933 by the writer and director Wu Yong Gang who continued to make groundbreaking films in China until 1982.

Together with his lead star, the beautiful Ruan Lingyu, this film has retained its iconic status and is one of the first films to be restored by the China Film Archive together with the BFI.

Lady Linda Wong Davies, founder of the KT Wong Foundation, says: “With this unique viewing experience we hope to remind the world of this incredible period of Chinese film history which was highly creative.

“Chinese filmmakers were technically and artistically comparable to the great western masters of the same period, such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). The Goddess is an enchanting and powerful film that scandalised conservative Chinese audiences at the time of its original release.

“We feel that music is integral to the identity and perception of a film, therefore the new score is a contemporary response to an old classic masterpiece.”

The story of The Goddess highlights the challenges faced by an impoverished single mother struggling to put her son through school. The female lead, whose name we never learn, suffers a series of escalating hardships and humiliations at the hands of punishing authority figures.

Ruan Lingyu was easily the most famous actress in Chinese silent cinema during the thirties and perfect for the role.

Her talent and charisma paved the way for a Chinese cinema dominated by major female stars, thus making women emblematic of a society’s struggle and liberation towards a modern era.

Her personal life, tragically ending with her shock suicide at the age of 26, reflected the turbulent social changes in China at that time.

Following her death, copies of her films became even more highly sought after but due to the delicate quality of the film reels at the time, only nine of her films, including The Goddess, survived.

In 2014, the Chinese Film Authority successfully completed a digital restoration of the film, which has since been shown at the Beijing International Film Festival with a live score performed by the Chinese Philharmonic Orchestra – this marked the first time a Chinese film had ever been shown with live music.

The Goddess was also shown at the 2014 Shanghai International Film Festival and at the Cinematheque Francaise in June of this year.

The upcoming British premiere of The Goddess marks an important return to prominence for a film that was denounced as decadent when the Communist Party came to power.

The Goddess forms one part of a programme of 15 films selected by KT Wong Foundation, entitled Goddess, Martyr, Heroine: A Portrait of Women in Chinese Cinema. The programme will focus on the role of Chinese women over the last century, as shown though film. The full programme can be seen in Paris in November, and follows the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Sino-French diplomatic relations.

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