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Emory Presents Rare Silent Film Screening: Red Heroine

Red Heroine (1929)
7:30 p.m., Oct. 5
Room 208 White Hall,
Emory University

September 25, 2008 (ATLANTA) -- The Devil Music Ensemble (DME) will perform their new original score live to the silent martial arts film Red Heroine (1929, directed by Wen Yimin), at 7:30 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 5 in Room 208 of White Hall on the Emory University campus. This film is the only surviving extant Chinese “Kung Fu” film left from the silent era. It is a prime example of the popular Chinese swordplay genre (wuxia pian), often based on published novels or serials, and an early cinema export, which was banned after the Cultural Revolution. (Film synopsis follows release)

The score that the DME has composed pulls from the traditions of Chinese classical and folk music, as well as soundtracks from classic Kung Fu cinema, and is the only modern score composed expressly for this film. This is a very rare performance that showcases the combination of the ancient tradition of martial arts, early 20th century Asian film, and 21st century music.

This event is co-sponsored by the Emory College Center for Creativity & the Arts, the Department of Film Studies, REALC (Department of Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures), the Confucius Institute of Emory University, the Department of Theater Studies, and the Department of Music.

To find out more about the DME go to


RED HEROINE (Hong Xia) 1929

Directed by Wen Yimin Studio: Youlian
Cinematographer: Yao Shiquan
Cast: Fan Xuepeng, Shu Gohui, Wang Juqing, Wen Yimin, Sao Guanyu
With Chinese and English subtitles. Silent, 94 min.

Episode six of RED HEROINE (a.k.a. RED KNIGHT-ERRANT), the only surviving episode of the 13-part serial, is also one of the few complete and earliest extant silent martial arts films. Made at the height of the martial arts craze in 1920s Shanghai, this lively tale about the rise of a woman warrior features the genre’s then-characteristic blend of pulp and mystical derring-do. A rampaging army raids a village and kidnaps a maiden, causing the death of the young woman’s grandmother. At the general’s lair, the captive maiden faces imminent rape, but is lo and behold rescued by the mysterious Daoist hermit, White Monkey. Three years later, Yun Mei (“Yun Ko” in the English intertitles) reemerges as a full-fledged warrior, ready to deploy the magic powers learnt from White Monkey to avenge her grandmother’s death.

This “maiden of the clouds” (the literal meaning of “Yun Mei”) flies across the skies to rescue another innocent captured by the marauding soldiers. Appearing and disappearing in a puff of smoke, Yun Mei scurries up and down walls on a rope, runs and jumps, dodges here and attacks there. While sprinkled with anachronisms and prurient incongruities (for instance, the general’s lair is part-country villa, part-operatic stage and part-DeMille den of iniquity with bikini-clad women and bestial men), the film is never less than a robust telling of a young woman’s transformation from abject victim to resolute warrior. Her flight of empowerment noticeably leads her away from family and marriage towards a chaste omniscience in an otherworldly plane. The film’s director Wen Yimin plays the archetypal non-fighting scholar to whom Yun Mei plays matchmaker. According to Fan Xuepeng who stars as Yun Mei, her warrior garb was originally tinted, the better to be a vision in red.