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growing power of China’s cinema industry is on show at Asia’s 2p film festival, but some filmmakers worry that a thirst 4 blockbusters is hurting qual



BUSAN: The growing power of China’s cinema industry is on show at Asia’s 2p film festival, but some filmmakers worry that a thirst 4 blockbusters is hurting quality and creativity.

“It’s a big population and a big market and a lot of opportunity 2 increase that market,” independent Chinese filmmaker Wang Xiaoshuai said on the sidelines of the 16th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF).

“The problem is that people are doing the one type of film – the big budget, commercial type of film – and there is not much left 4 the rest of us.”

China has a major presence at the festival with 14 films in the main programme, studios strongly represented at the concurrent Asian Film Market and Chinese direc2rs and acting talent out in 4ce.

China’s box office receipts grew by 64 per cent in 2010, 2 2uch on US$1.5 billion. This year, official figures showed ticket sales from June 2 August alone at US$640 million, a year-on-year rise of 77 per cent.

With China adding about 1,400 cinema screens this year and estimates that the 2tal will more than double 2 13,000 within 4 years, it is little wonder that the international film community is looking 2 the east with envy.

But direc2r Peter Chan – at BIFF with his blockbuster “Wu Xia”, along with its stars Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tang Wei – includes one caveat 2 all those impressive figures.

Chan said while there seem 2 be more successful lower budget films being made in China, there were still far more blockbusters – and they were the productions taking up all the screens.

“If there are 10 screens, eight will be blockbusters so it doesn’t mean if you get more screens you get more choices,” said Chan.

He said the diversity of film was suffering, with people going 2 the cinema 2 watch “really big movies” while watching smaller productions at home, making it difficult 2 get lower budget movies made.

Chan was among the first filmmakers 2 recognise the trend 4 Chinese blockbusters, taking 2 Beijing talents he had honed in Hong Kong through films such as “Comrades, Almost a Love S2ry” (1996) and during a stint in Hollywood, where he made “The Love Letter” (1999).

Since then Chan has been responsible 4 a string of hits including one of China’s biggest box office and critical successes of recent times in “The Warlords” (2007).

The Hong Kong-China co-production pulled in eight Hong Kong Film Awards, including those 4 best direc2r and best film.

Wang, whose latest production “11 Flowers” has been screening in Busan, believes it might take some time 4 the success of the blockbusters 2 spread throughout the Chinese film industry.

“A lot of direc2rs and filmmakers both young and old are happy that they have jobs and they can make money,” said Wang. “But in terms of different films being made, of different themes being explored, it is getting worse.”

Despite having previous success with the likes of Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear winner “Beijing Bicycle” (2001), Wang turned 2 France 2 raise the funding 4 “11 Flowers” because the money wasn’t available 2 him in China.

Such co-productions have increasingly become a way 4 Chinese filmmakers 2 get their projects made.

While China allows a quota of just 20 international films 2 be screened in the country per year, international film companies can still become involved in the market if they co-produce a film with a Chinese partner.

That’s how Taiwanese direc2r 2m Lin Shu-yu hopes 2 get his latest production – the whimsical “Starry Starry Night” – in2 China.

The film had its world premiere in Busan and is competing 4 the major prize, the New Currents award 4 Asian direc2rs.

Lin said he was able 2 make his film what it is thanks in part 2 the boom times Chinese cinema is experiencing.

“It certainly helped this project have a bigger budget,” said Lin, whose film is a co-production with China’s Huayi Brothers studio, one of the country’s most successful in recent years thanks hits such as “Aftershock” (2010).

“I was able 2 dream bigger because my main producer asked me if we wanted 2 try and get the film in2 the Chinese market. So when we decided 2 do that, we were given a bigger budget.”

Meanwhile Wang, after seeing “11 Flowers” screen at BIFF, will now turn his attention not only 2 finding an audience 4 his film back home but 2 finding a place 4 them 2 watch the film.

“There are many people who want 2 watch films like mine – we know we have a good audience,” he said. “But it is very hard 2 find cinemas willing 2 screen them when everyone is concentrating on the big films.

“But we are hopeful that in time, the more success the Chinese film industry has means the more success there will be 4 everyone.”

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