Explore early Chinese cinema in Shanghai Film Museum

China Plus Published: 2018-06-27 11:50:46
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Shanghai Film Museum [Photo: from China Plus]

Shanghai Film Museum [Photo: from China Plus]

Shanghai is the birthplace of Chinese cinema.

The city first became involved in cinema as early as 1896 when the first films made by the pioneering Lumière brothers were screened in Shanghai, less than a year after their debut in Paris.

Just 17 years later, in 1913, Shanghai witnessed the release of China's first official feature film, setting in motion one of the greatest influences in the development of the country's movie making industry.

The evolution of Shanghai's Film History, from its very beginning in 1920s until the "blockbuster" days of the 21st century, is being exhibited at Shanghai's Film Museum.

Located inside a former film studio in Shanghai's downtown Xujiahui District, the museum includes over 70 interactive installations and thousands of historic exhibits, connecting the past, present and future, while encouraging discussions among movie lovers who visit.

Shen Bingbing works at the museum during the weekends as a volunteer guide.

A display of Chinese movie makers [Photo: from China Plus]

A display of Chinese movie makers [Photo: from China Plus]

I came across her at one of the show rooms, discovering it's her first day at work.

She seems prepared and excited.

"You can see the history and culture here at the museum and I think this will exert great influences on our kids and youngsters. Honestly speaking, I didn't watch many films before, only last year I picked up the habit of watching films and found it fascinating, because through films you see the world."

Shen says she enjoys interacting with people and enriching her life with new things.

Although she says she's not a movie fanatic, she says she understands the important value this museum has to movie lovers.

"If you are truly a person that appreciates movie art, you want to explore its history, what it was it like in the old days, what were the good works of the past. And all these things can be found here at the museum. The section that I highly recommend people to see is the fourth floor, which shows how early movie were produced and the famous contributors behind the achievements."

Many consider that Chinese cinema first peaked in the late-1920s, with Shanghai later being dubbed as the Hollywood of the East.

Movies from that era were commercially oriented and focused on topics suitable for light entertainment.

In the 1930s, Chinese cinema underwent vast changes.

The first Chinese 'talkie,' "Sing-Song Girl Red Peony" was released in 1931.

The advent of audio in films helped to carry Chinese film frenzy to the end of that decade.

That era also gave rise to A-list film stars comparable to their Hollywood counterparts.

One of them - Zhou Xuan - remains a legendary figure in Shanghai and a household name in China even today.

The piano Zhou Xuan played in her film [Photo: from China Plus]

The piano Zhou Xuan played in her film [Photo: from China Plus]

Zhou Xuan recorded more than 200 songs and appeared in over 40 films in her career.

Her life story and movies are elaborately displayed at the museum.

Moving through the museum is not just about learning cinema history and Chinese audiences, but also one which offers up a number of surprises.

Roaming the building's four-stories, visitors are also given the chance to participate in the filmmaking and promotion process with the museum's innovative and immersive designs.

For example, you can dub classical films in a real sound studio, or walk through a lifelike film set on Shanghai's famous Nanjing Road.

The Carpet of Lights [Photo: from China Plus]

The Carpet of Lights [Photo: from China Plus]

To get the feel of what its like to be a movie star, you can walk the 'Carpet of Lights,' with virtual fans and photographers flash their cameras and making exclamations.

Mrs.Yang is a local resident who brought her 7-year-old son to the museum for a weekend trip."Stepping out of the elevator from the 4th floor, you see the carpet of lights right in front of you. It's quite surprising. My son asked me 'mom, are we walking on the red carpet?' he was curious and very excited."

Yang says she's here to reminisce about the past and also immerse her boy into the art of film.

Old shooting cameras [Photo: from China Plus]

Old shooting cameras [Photo: from China Plus]

"He's mostly playing here, so I'm not trying to instill film knowledge into his mind. Every now and then we see something that he is familiar with, we will talk about it and I'll give him some extra information. For example, when we sees a statue of his favorite cartoon figures, I'll tell him the history behind them. He's also interested in the look of the old cameras and film props. We have had a lot of fun."

During this year's Shanghai International Film Festival, this museum is acting as one of the host venues for a series of professional discussions, art salons, and special screenings.

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