Shot during the last days of the Civil War in China’s transition to socialism, Crows and Sparrows is one of the best crafted films of the 1940s. But its director, Zheng Junli, navigated some treacherous political waters to get it made. The original script was banned by the Nationalist government, presumably because of its unflattering depiction of corruption, inflation, and social inequity. Then after the Communists invaded, the filmmaker tacked on a politically acceptable ending. The film captures the frenzy of change through several households in a traditional shikumen Shanghai building. The tenants, or “sparrows,” share their dreams and uncertainties of the future while facing the threat of eviction by the “crows,” the landlord couple preparing to flee Communist rule. One of the finest examples of critical realism spiced up with a dose of slapstick comedy, Crows and Sparrows features some of China’s most celebrated stars. In person screening at China Institute today, with a virtual lecture about the film tomorrow. A link to view each film online is also available for viewing at home.