The Magic of Celluloid

The ‘Asian Avant-Garde Film Festival’ offers the rare opportunity to screen five 16 mm films by Lambert Yam and Ruby Yang. This is made possible thanks to the artists in sharing their sole copies of films with M+, as well as the expertise of the museum’s resident projectionist Ho Wing-hung, Technical Supervisor, Moving Image.

In the age of digitalisation, M+ is one of the few remaining venues in Hong Kong that is equipped for analogue film screenings. As a veteran with more than thirty years of experience, Ho shares that House 1 of M+ Cinema can screen both 35 mm and 16 mm films, which is a rarity when mainstream cinemas have all converted to automated screenings in the format of Digital Cinema Package (DCP). Ho describes his experience inside the projection room as similar to working in a submarine, as it requires absolute patience and immersion in the interaction between human labour and the materiality of film. Years of training and experience in the projection room also nourish qualities of perseverance and adaptability to unexpected emergencies in monitoring film screenings. 

Ho Wing-hung, Technical Supervisor, Moving Image, M+ in the projection room of M+ Cinema, 2024. Photo: Annabel Preston

Unfortunately, this industry is at risk of imminent decline. Most existing projectionists are approaching retirement, and professional opportunities are diminishing. There is also the difficulty of allowing novice operators to gain hands-on operating experience, given the fragile conditions of film copies that allow no room for error. In spite of these challenges, Ho has faith that the magic of film will persist, especially through the contemporary art discipline that appreciates the distinctive texture of film. Just like vinyl, the timeless quality of analogue film is irreplaceable and will continue to enchant viewers.

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