Benjamin Brodsky (1877-1960), a Russian Jew, was one of the pioneers of Hong Kong film industry. First to open a film production company in Hong Kong, he inspired his friends Lai Man-wai, Lai Buk-hoi and Lo Wing-cheung to become filmmakers, laying the seeds for Hong Kong film industry.
Brodsky traveled around the world as a film projectionist when he was young. He came to China in 1909 to start his business of film projection and trading related equipment. With Chinese government’s financial support and young intellectuals’ love of Western drama and cinema after the Republican Revolution, he traveled to the US to purchase new films and planned to return to China for making films.
Eventually he founded Variety Film Exchange Company and Variety Film Manufacturing Company in 1913 on Nathan Road, Hong Kong. He hired R.F. Van Velzer from New York for staff training, equipment and printing laboratory building. In February 1914, Brodsky made his first film, The Sport of Kings (retitled Hong Kong Races) on the annual Hong Kong horse race. It was well received in the high society and earned Brodsky a reputable name. In 1914, with better production conditions gained through connecting to Yuan Shikai’s government, he ultimately made A Trip Through China (1917).
Brodsky shot A Trip Through China in various Chinese cities. He created a documentary with vision, presenting the ordinary lives and natural beauties of towns and villages. It was critically acclaimed after its release in the US, Brodsky was even praised by the media as “King of Chinese Cinema”. The copy in Taipei Film Archive was only 80 minutes long, significantly shorter than the original 2-hour version, but it didn’t undermine the film’s importance in documenting early Chinese society.
Group photo of China Cinema Company Limited
Group photo of Variety Film Exchange Co. and Variety Film Manufactu...