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Cultural growth essential for China's int'l cinema expansion

(Xinhua) September 16, 2013

The rapid growth of China's domestic film market is undoubtedly great news for localfilmmakers, but many are left wondering how much longer it'll be until they see some ofChina's very own films on the global stage?

China, now the second largest box office market in the world, has an average of about ninescreens going up per day to satisfy its audience's insatiable appetite for films. And as theimportance of China's market continues to grow, its own domestically-made films have alsoseen a huge boost.

But Chinese cinema, with its limited international reach, is still far from being showcased atthe prestigious Oscars, one of the glitziest events in the industry.

Many Chinese filmmakers and other key players at the ongoing 38th annual TorontoInternational Film Festival (TIFF) -- an annual 11-day movie extravaganza that's been abig supporter of the Chinese film industry in recent years, not only showcasing a widevariety of Chinese language films, but also holding their second annual Asian Film Summitin hopes of bridging the East and the West -- analyzed in recent interviews with Xinhua thechallenges the market continues to face as it struggles to break out beyond its geographicalboundaries.

One of the key issues many, including the festival's CEO Piers Handling, pointed to is theinexperience of China's film industry compared to Hollywood. While Hollywood has had acentury to perfect their filmmaking skills, China's young industry still has a lot of catchingup to do, he said.

"I think what China is going through right now is an evolution, they're moving away from amore personal tourist-driven cinema of the fifth generation into an attempt at morecommercial cinema," said Handling.

"I think they're trying to emulate Hollywood, I think they're trying to emulate a littleBollywood, trying to make films that are obviously very successful for the Chinesedomestic market, thinking how some of these films can actually translate into internationalsuccesses."

"When you're trying to take on and challenge another industry, it's not the easiest thing todo," he added.

But Handling said, instead of emulating what others are doing, Chinese filmmakers arebetter off finding their own voice to give their global audience a unique look at China's richculture.

"That's probably at the end of the day the most important thing, that the Chinese don't tryto become like American films," he said.

But developing a unique voice that can move and capture the global audience's attentionisn't easy. The cultural barrier is undeniable, according to Canadian producer Shan Tam ofthe Chinese hit film Finding Mr. Right, who pointed out that the dialogue and stories thatwork in the Chinese market are vastly different from those that work internationally.

Tam also believes the Chinese industry needs a boost of talent in different positions tocontinue its growth. For one, having more recognizable stars who could becomeambassadors and the face of the Chinese film industry could potentially help bridge thegap, she said.

Chinese Hong Kong director Peter Ho-sun Chan, who was in Toronto earlier in the week topremiere his film American Dreams in China, pointed to the recent shift in the Chineseaudience's taste, from the typical martial arts epic into films like his own that speak aboutthe social issues and real-life situations, as a big step for the Chinese industry.

"That kind of shift is a great thing for the Chinese audience and the Chinese film market, itmeans that the audience, even the society, has matured to an extent where they like tolook up to themselves and look at themselves in the big screen and be able to find answersabout life on the big screen," he said.

Chinese director Jia Zhangke, who was at TIFF this week to premiere his film Touch of Sin,said China needs to establish and continue to reach out to the international audience notjust through films, but through all different venues in order to educate the global audiencein its culture.

"The export of film as cultural product is not only about the film itself, it's definitelyconnected with the cultural power of the country," he said. "That is to say the globalinfluence of Chinese culture as a whole, including the influence of Chinese literary, drama,modern art and fine art, is interactive."

"Only when the overall power and global influence of Chinese cultural has been enhanced,will Chinese films be able to go further," Jia said.

This year's TIFF, which runs till Sept. 15, is featuring a total of 15 feature-length and shortfilms from China's mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

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