WHEN LESS IS MORE

China’s an­nual Film Crit­ics’ Choice Awards have been given to five films in­stead of 10, Han Bing­bin re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINESE TRAIN PROJECTS AROUND THE WORLD -

China’s sta­tus as the world’s sec­ond-largest film mar­ket and Chi­nese cinema’s in­creas­ing di­ver­sity aren’t sat­is­fy­ing lo­cal crit­ics, who, while ap­plaud­ing their fa­vorite films of last year, say the qual­ity of films made in China needs to im­prove.

Black Coal, Thin Ice, a crime thriller that won the best pic­ture award at the 64th Ber­lin In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in 2014, also took first place at the Film Crit­ics’ Choice Awards hosted by the China Film As­so­ci­a­tion.

The an­nual awards are judged by a panel of 80 in­de­pen­dent and me­dia-based film crit­ics. Now in its eighth year, the awards this year were down­sized from a pre­vi­ous top 10 list to only five best films.

Other than the thriller, Peter Chan’s Dear­est, Lou Ye’s Blind Mas­sage, Zhang Yi­mou’s Com­ingHome, TsuiHark’s TheTak­ing of Tiger Moun­tain ( jux­ta­posed with Com­ing Home) and Ann Hui’s The Golden Era were de­clared this year’s win­ners.

When an­nounc­ing the awards on May 12, the China Film As­so­ci­a­tion also launched its an­nual re­ports on both Chi­nese film art and film in­dus­try. The find­ings par­tic­u­larly high­lighted the in­creas­ing di­ver­sity of Chi­nese movies and, as ex­pected, China’s new role as the world’s sec­ond-largest film mar­ket with to­tal box-of­fice rev­enues of 29.6 bil­lion yuan ($4.77 bil­lion) in 2014.

Some 16 bil­lion yuan was made by 259 Chi­nese pro­duc­tions, eight of which earned more than 500 mil­lion yuan with the high­est, Breakup Bud­dies, gross­ing over 1.1 bil­lion yuan. About half of that ex­hil­a­rat­ing fig­ure, how­ever, is con­tribut­ed­by70im­ported movies, mostly fromHol­ly­wood.

It is still hard to say whether lo­cal pro­duc­tions can achieve more than 50 per­cent share of the Chi­nese mar­ket this year, says the as­so­ci­a­tion’s sec­re­tary gen­eral Rao Shuguang, with the lat­est Fast and Fu­ri­ous in­stall­ment al­ready pos­ing a great chal­lenge by gross­ing more than 2 bil­lion yuan in China.

“With Chi­nese cinema go­ing through re­form and China on the way to be­com­ing a pow­er­ful film­mak­ing in­dus­try, it is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant to help Chi­nese cinema grow in a health­ier and more sus­tain­able way,” Rao says. “It will re­quire us to pro­duce films that are not only com­pet­i­tive in the mar­ket but also have cul­tural depth.”

Many crit­icsworry that­some emerg­ing trends have al­ready started to turn Chi­nese films into shal­low en­ter­tain­ment. Ex­am­ples in­clude the much­crit­i­cized adap­tions of popular re­al­ity TV shows, the un­con­ven­tional re­make of “red clas­sics” (rev­o­lu­tion­ary epics) and what ap­pears most alarm­ing to film ob­servers, the in­flu­ence of cy­ber cul­ture.

The catch­phrase now in Chi­nese cinema is IP, or in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, which refers to any popular on­line prod­uct such as a novel, game or even a song that can be de­vel­oped into a po­ten­tially suc­cess­ful fea­ture-length film.

“The In­ter­net’s in­flu­ence now can be seen not only in the art form but also in the shoot­ing tech­niques of many pro­duc­tions,” says Yin­Hong, a me­dia pro­fes­sor at Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity and chair of the film as­so­ci­a­tion’s critic unit. “It can help a movie gain quick recog­ni­tion among younger au­di­ences and bring a ‘grass­roots feel’ to films.”

But the in­dus­try’s be­lief in the In­ter­net as a guar­an­tee of their prod­ucts’ pop­u­lar­ity have be­come so ob­ses­sive that there’s no room left for cre­at­ing the real cul­tur­ally mean­ing­ful prod­ucts, says Bei­jing Film Academy’s se­nior pro­fes­sorHuang Shix­ian.

The al­legedly biased screen­ing sched­ules of the­aters th­ese days have also caused some film­mak­ers to worry that it may squeeze the space for art­house pro­duc­tions and other films with se­ri­ous sub­jects.

In a re­cent post on his mi­cro blog, di­rec­torWang Xiaoshuai com­plained his award-win­ning film Red Am­ne­sia was get­ting too few screen­ings in cine­mas. He said now is the “best time for com­mer­cial films and worst for se­ri­ous pro­duc­tions”.

This change is, how­ever, based on how the­aters view their tar­get au­di­ences, which now­con­sist of a grow­ing num­ber of teenagers, ac­cord­ing to film colum­nist Yu Xin.

As a part of peo­ple’s leisure, says vet­eran cine­matog­ra­pher Liang Ming, film is sim­ply an en­ter­tain­ment prod­uct and should find away to re­spect the mar­ket even when it’s look­ing to demon­strate some cul­tural depth.

In terms of cre­at­ing more space for se­ri­ous pro­duc­tions, maybe China can learn from the United States, where films — es­pe­cially art pro­duc­tions — have a much longer screen­ing pe­riod so that their build­ing rep­u­ta­tion can bring big­ger au­di­ences, says an­a­lyst Peng Kan of Le­gendMe­dia.

France even has a pol­icy that the screen­ings of a sin­gle movie should re­main no more than one-third the to­tal num­ber of screen­ings at a movie hall, ac­cord­ing to Peng.

Or the sce­nario can be al­tered to nur­ture the tastes of fu­ture au­di­ences.

“Why­can’twe­bring cine­mas into uni­ver­si­ties and show more art films?” says Yu.

“They are the main­stream au­di­ences of the fu­ture. Their tastes will largely de­cide the qual­ity of Chi­nese films, even world films, in the fu­ture.” Con­tact the writer at han­bing­bin@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Black­Coal,ThinIce, star­ring Liao Fan (left) and Gwei Lun-mei, ranks top among the win­ners of this year’s Film Crit­ics’ Choice Awards.

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