At the turn of the century, a little-known French Consul in China, Auguste François, made headlines by saving a handful of French citizens during the Boxer uprising. In China from 1896 to 1905, he witnessed some of the greatest events of the time. François was an avid photographer, and with one of the first movie cameras, lent to him by the famous Lumière brothers, he documented the historic events and everyday life he saw around him.
With the zeal of an amateur filmmaker and relatively free-access in the cities he was posted to, Lungchou and Yunnan-fou (today Kumming), François filmed sketches of street-side life, from the vendors and grocers selling their wares, to the local ear-cleaners and flea-pickers - professionals famous for their dexterity.
While on official assignments François explored the outlying countryside, making long, epic trips to other areas of the country. On one such trip to Tibet he found himself caught in the midst of a violent revolt by the indigenous Yi against the Chinese (in the film are photographs he took of the Yi).
Culled from François' letters, diary entries, and notes, and with a wealth of rare archival photographs and films - including the first films shot in China - THROUGH THE CONSUL'S EYE chronicles the experiences of this aristocratic diplomat, who left us a remarkable portrait of China on the brink of a new age.
"The strength of [THROUGH THE CONSUL'S EYE] rests on the magnificent collection of François' photographs and films... striking, compelling, charming, extraordinary! They hold ethnographic and historical interest... and may be of benefit to historians of film in addition to researchers interested in the study of colonialism or the history of modern China. Overall, credit is due to the film's creators in making these materials more widely available to the public. A worthwhile film."—Journal of Film & History
2002 Association for Asian Studies Film Festival
2001 Vancouver International Film Festival
"An exciting trove of rare early photography [and] an excellent collection of still and movie photography. Contemporary maps, including field drawings... are used effectively."—Professor David D. Buck, University of Wisconsin for the Asian Educational Media Service's 'News and Reviews'
"Offers a charming and unique film most suitable for classes in Southeast Asia, Chinese or Imperial history."—Professor Douglas Porch, Naval Postgraduate School, for French Colonial History Society Newsletter
"Auguste Francois' life is like an adventure novel. Lovable hero, funny, cultivated, he applies for a position in Asia after he has read Salammbo by Flaubert ... (and he) had the genius idea to bring in his luggage a little camera lent by the Lumiere brothers and that he used heavily ... leaving a complete and lively testimony of China at the beginning of the century."—Telerama (Paris)
"We owe all these rare documents of scenes from daily life between 1899 and 1904 to Auguste Francois ... (he) took advantage of his long stays and trips in China and in the Tonkin region to film, thanks to a camera lent by the Lumiere brothers, these scenes that, better than any academic work, offer a captivating vision of China at the turn of the century."—Le Monde (Paris)