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:: Shadow Magic

Shadow Magic is the story of the first motion pictures to be shown in China. The invention brought over by an Englishman gave the Chinese an eye to the wider and white world through introducing the audiences to the moving photograph. Just as the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds scared audiences with warning of alien invasion, the moving picture sequences were an eye opening reality and footage of an oncoming train made the seated audience move.

The Chinese people illustrated in Shadow Magic walk in small steps with their heads tilted downwards. Although a lighthearted depiction of the culture, it showed a less intelligent Asian race similar to the action comedies of Jackie Chan, an ignoble depiction of an ancient culture. By self-referentially laughing at culture, the Chinese village is given the endearing qualities, as had an Australian family in The Castle. The Chinese men wear plaits and the women paint a red thickened line in the centre of thin lips. Costuming is full with females wearing long dress and bandaging their feet. A joke concerning the adapting of culture suggests that ‘one day women won't strap their feet’.

When the Englishman first presents the moving pictures or Shadow Magic as it is called within the film, the invention is ignored with disbelief and by a culture that associated the western world and foreign with evil. A Chinese local warms to the poor conman and sells the movies to the townsmen. When the word catches on the mayor of the town is concerned about the western evil until he to views the moving pictures.

The first moving pictures were records of everyday life in the Western world. Faithful to historical reference, the first moving pictures included in shadow Magic are short sequences of workers leaving their factory, ladies and prams in parks, and transport. The reaction the Chinese audience was that of entertainment by a culture different to their own, but they thought the footage to be staged not real footage. When the Chinese helper and Englishman film local footage, the Chinese are more entertained. It is interesting that the Englishman felt that he could not sell the Chinese footage to an audience back home.