Chinese cinema history has received a shot in the arm with the donation of more than 400 Hong Kong and Taiwanese feature films and trailers, collected by curator and festival programmer Colin Geddes, to the University of Toronto. 

The films, rescued from closed cinemas in Toronto’s Chinatown, and in some cases picked out of the garbage, span the 1970s to the 1990s and include some of the rare early works of masters such as Wong Kar-wai, Tsui Hark, John Woo and Hou Hsiao-hsien.

“To have a collection of this range and quality safely preserved in the Special Collections Archive of the Media Commons, is a true gift to students, faculty and film fans,” says Charlie Keil, director of the Cinema Studies Institute, University of Toronto. “Many of the donated titles are unavailable elsewhere in North America and in certain instances these reels are some of the last surviving prints anywhere in the world.”

Geddes is a film archivist, curator and international programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival. He compiled the collection of around 200 features and 225 trailers over 15 years, scouring closed down Chinatown cinemas for abandoned reels.

“The collection was born out of a recognition that these films represent a valuable piece of international cinematic history that would be impossible to replace if ever lost,” said Geddes.

The collection will be made available through the Media Commons for use by students and film scholars. It’s hoped the collection will prove invaluable as a resource for those researching Hong Kong and Taiwanese film production.