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Norway restores, donates 1927 silent film to China

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BEIJING (AP) — Norway donated a restored Chinese silent film from the 1920s to China's national film archive on Tuesday, despite a prolonged diplomatic chill between the countries over the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Two representatives of the National Library of Norway presented the film to the China Film Archive and a showing was planned, according to the official China News Service. Calls to the archive rang unanswered.

The library said it in a statement it found a damaged print of the 1927 Shanghai Film Company production "The Cave of the Spider Spirit" in its archives in 1999 during an attempt to identify around 9,000 boxed reels.

The film, based on a chapter of the Chinese classical folktale Journey to the West, was restored and a copy made. The library said the film premiered in Oslo in January 1929 with title cards in both languages.

"The translator took great liberties and put in his own comments in parenthesis when he thought that was appropriate," film archivist Tina Anckarman said in the statement. "There are also sequences in the film where the Chinese text is mistakenly inserted upside down or reversed."

The restoration appears to have kept the original commentary and mistakes. It is unclear how this version of the film ended up in Norway or whether other copies still exist.

According to the 2005 book, "An Amorous History of the Silver Screen: Shanghai Cinema, 1896-1937," by Zhang Zhen, the highly stylized film featured the first scene from with an underwater camera to appear in a Chinese production.

Anckarman made the trip to Beijing along with National Librarian Roger Joesevold. The film exchange marks a rare point of official contact between the sides.

Beijing froze most contacts after a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, deeply embarrassing China's leaders.

Diplomatic ties have been gutted, meetings canceled and economic ties hamstrung by an unofficial partial embargo on Norwegian salmon and a freeze on trade talks.

The snit shows the lengths Beijing will go to punish other nations for offenses or perceived slights. Beijing hasn't said what it wants Norway to do to heal the rift.

While the Nobel is awarded in Oslo by the parliament-appointed committee, the Norwegian government has no direct say in who gets it. At the time of the award, Beijing bitterly accused Norway of insulting China by interfering in its internal affairs and glorifying a criminal.

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Associated Press writer Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report.

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