TRIP THROUGH CHINA, A (Benjamin Brodsky, 1917, USA, 100m, BW)
21 May 1917 (USA)
Director: Benjamin Brodsky
Production Company: China Film Company. Producer: Benjamin Brodsky. Distributor: Supreme Feature Films, Inc. Transfer Note: Copied at 18 frames per second from a 35mm tinted print provided by the New Zealand Film Archive and preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive.
Documentary on the then-new Chinese Republic, taken over a ten-year period. Footage includes races at Shanghai, imperial ceremonies at the national Temple of Heaven, scenes of the destruction caused by the typhoon of 1914, and the installation of government officials at the Peking palaces.
Benjamin Brodsky was a businessman who moved from San Francisco after the Earthquake to China, where he set up a film exchange. When he returned to San Francisco in 1915, he reportedly had close to a hundred thousand feet of film he had shot while in China. He edited it down to a long travelogue and a couple of years later into a series of ten short films. Although archive copies of the full film reside in the Library of Congress and in the Taipei Film Archives, this extract, recovered from New Zealand in 2010, seems to contain footage not included in the full feature version; apparently Brodsky did more than chop up the feature.
This two-reel extract, which can be viewed online at the National Film Preservation site, shows the city of Peking (modern Beijing). There is a lot of architecture and the first half concentrates on westerners: the foreign occupation troops, discussion of the Boxer Rebellion, an American preparatory college. Chinese people appear in the background. It is in the second half that we begin to see actual Chinese: a funeral cortège, bird sellers, a soldier guarding a petrified tree. the result is a well-edited travelogue through a piece of history.
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