Chi­nese films get boost in Toronto

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By NA LI and KELSEY CHENG in Toronto

It seems like all eyes are now on China’s boom­ing film in­dus­try, as di­rec­tors, pro­duc­ers and au­di­ences alike dis­cussed the rapid de­vel­op­ment of Chi­nese movie-mak­ing at the Asian Film Sum­mit seg­ment of this year’s Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (TIFF).

Cel­e­brat­ing its 40th an­niver­sary, TIFF, which ran from Sept 10 to 20, screened 400 films from more than 70 coun­tries and re­gions, 13 of which were Chi­nese.

Inspired by Chi­nese ac­claimed film­maker Jia Zhangke’s ground­break­ing film Plat­form (2000), TIFF launched this year a new pro­gram called Plat­form, to cham­pion films from around the world. The jury was com­posed of film­mak­ers Jia Zhang-ke, Claire De­nis and Ag­nieszka Hol­land.

Jia is no stranger to TIFF. At least 10 of his films have been show­cased at the fes­ti­val since 2006, with his latest, Moun­tains May De­part, one of the fes­ti­val’s spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tions this year.

Speak­ing at the Asian

Film Sum­mit on Sept 15, Jia shared his thoughts on China’s ex­pand­ing film in­dus­try, not­ing that the Chi­nese en­ter­tain­ment sec­tor has come a long way.

“Back in the ’90s, there were only 16 film stu­dios in China, and most films made were his­tor­i­cal ones,” Jia said.

For­tu­nately for film­mak­ers like Jia, the mar­ket has changed dra­mat­i­cally over the years.

“Many Chi­nese are un­der­go­ing sig­nif­i­cant lifestyle changes in the con­text of so­cial trans­for­ma­tion over the last 20 years,” Jia said. “And my film tries to il­lus­trate these changes, es­pe­cially from an in­di­vid­ual point of view.”

On the other hand, the de­mand for en­ter­tain­ment among Chi­nese au­di­ences has been rapidly in­creas­ing. Andy Li, pres­i­dent of online video plat­form iQIYI Mo­tion Pic­tures, says box of­fice sales ex­ceeded 300 mil­lion RMB three weeks ago.

“Due to the ad­vanced de­vel­op­ment of the In­ter­net, in­ter­ac­tion be­tween films and the au­di­ence is no longer uni­di­rec­tional,” Li said. “It has now be­come a mul­ti­di­men­sional in­ter­ac­tion be­tween film stars, di­rec­tors and the media. More im­por­tantly, the way the au­di­ence re­acts to this in­for­ma­tion has changed dra­mat­i­cally as well.”

One of the di­rec­tors wit­ness­ing these changes is He Ping, whose piece, The Promised Land, was fea­tured in this year’s TIFF Plat­form screen­ings.

Well-known to au­di­ences as the di­rec­tor of pe­riod pieces, The Promised Land is He’s first con­tem­po­rary film. It is the story of two young adults leav­ing their ru­ral home­towns and their strug­gle to sur­vive in metropoli­tan Bei­jing.

“I went to many small towns in dif­fer­ent parts of China and in­ter­viewed more than 100 young adults re­search­ing this film,” He said. “Many of them share the same fate: they dream of lead­ing a suc­cess­ful life in big cities like Shang­hai and Bei­jing, only to fail and re­turn to their home­towns.”

To ac­tors of the film Zhang Yi and Wang Ji­a­jia, the story is the re­al­ity of Chi­nese so­ci­ety to­day.

“In China to­day, teenagers and young adults are called ‘the gen­er­a­tion that floats’, as they move from one city to another,” Zhang said in an in­ter­view. “The tra­di­tional Chi­nese con­cept of remembering one’s roots is no longer valid.”

To Wang, home is where the heart is. “Rather than be­ing bound by their roots, young Chi­nese women nowa­days tend to set­tle wher­ever love takes them,” Wang said.

Per­haps the most ap­peal­ing el­e­ment of the movie to the Cana­dian au­di­ence is Zhang Yi’s char­ac­ter in the film — an ice hockey coach. At the pre­miere of The Promised Land on Sept 14, the au­di­ence chuck­led when Zhang’s char­ac­ter ap­peared wear­ing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey.

“I loved to play ice hockey when I was a child,” Zhang said. “Ice hockey is re­ally big in China nowa­days.”

Another topic dis­cussed at the Asian Film Sum­mit was the process of col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Chi­nese and in­ter­na­tional film­mak­ers, as the Chi­nese film in­dus­try con­tin­ues its ex­pan­sion.

David Linde, founder of film- fi­nanc­ing com­pany Lava Bear Films, talked about his 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with Chi­nese film­mak­ers.

“The mis­take that Amer­i­cans make when they ap­proach col­lab­o­ra­tion in China is they al­ways try to un­der­stand the re­la­tion­ship in the con­text of be­ing an Amer­i­can,” Linde said.

“How­ever, in a place like China, where the cul­ture is so dis­tinct and so dif­fer­ent, you can’t do that.”

Con­tact the au­thor at re­nali@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

NA LI / CHINA DAILY

Chi­nese film­maker Jia Zhangke (cen­tre) is joined by Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val art di­rec­tor Cameron Bai­ley (left) in a dis­cus­sion of Master Class, at TIFF’s Asian Film Sum­mit on Sept 15 in Toronto.

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