Wang Kaihao.

The UK film in­dus­try is look­ing at China for fu­ture al­liances, a top BAFTA of­fi­cial tells

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

The 69th Bri­tish Academy Film Awards were held in Lon­don on Feb 14 and broad­cast in more than 200 coun­tries in­clud­ing China. In 2015, the awards pre­sen­ta­tion was of­fi­cially shown for the first time on the Chi­nese main­land through Youku, among the coun­try’s ma­jor stream­ing web­sites.

Amanda Berry, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bri­tish Academy of Film and Tele­vi­sion Arts, the body be­hind the awards, says as her or­ga­ni­za­tion seeks to ex­pand co­op­er­a­tion with geo­graphic re­gions out­side the West, it would look to China, the world’s se­cond-largest film mar­ket, as a likely part­ner.

In­March last year, Bri­tain’sPrince Wil­liam, who is also pres­i­dent of BAFTA, led del­e­gates to a visit of Shang­hai for the Great Fes­ti­val of Cre­ativ­ity, an expo or­ga­nized by the Bri­tish and Chi­nese gov­ern­ments to pro­mote UK’s cre­ative in­dus­try. Berry was on that team.

When Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping vis­ited the United King­dom in Oc­to­ber, Prince Wil­liam had pre­sented him a gift on­be­half of the academy to sym­bol­ize ties be­tween his coun­try and China.

“As our in­dus­try be­comes more global, there will be more op­por­tu­ni­ties for cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion,” Berry tells China Daily in an in­ter­viewover the phone from Lon­don.

“Lots of peo­ple in China are aware of the Os­cars, and we’ll work hard to raise the pro­file of not only BAFTA but the whole Bri­tish film in­dus­try.”

BAFTA also had Bri­tish makeup artist Naomi Donne share her ex­pe­ri­ences of work­ing in the film in­dus­try with Chi­nese stu­dents in Bei­jing last year.

Berry says host­ing train­ing pro­grams in China with ex­perts from the Bri­tish film in­dus­try would be an im­por­tant step to­ward aca­demic ex­changes on cinema be­tween the two coun­tries.

BAFTA and the Bei­jing Film Academy signed an agree­ment in De­cem­ber, con­firm­ing their in­ten­tion for fur­ther col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Bri­tish and Chi­nese stu­dents, as well as pro­fes­sion­als.

This year, BAFTA also launched its schol­ar­ship pro­gram for Chi­nese main­land stu­dents, giv­ing them up to $28,000 in tu­ition fees and $14,000 for in­di­vid­ual ex­penses. The pro­gram, which has been avail­able in Hong Kong since 2014, at­tempts to of­fer Chi­nese stu­dents the chance to study film, TV and re­lated dis­ci­plines in the UK.

The num­ber of stu­dents to be en­rolled to the pro­gram will be de­cided based on the skills they present, Berry says.

Prior to 2001, the BAFTA cer­e­monies were held in April mix­ing with TV awards, but Berry de­cided to move it to Fe­bru­ary ahead of the Os­cars in the United States.

“From that change, ev­ery­thing started to hap­pen,” she re­calls.

We don’t want to be a car­bon copy (of the Os­cars) though it’s an in­ter­na­tional cer­e­mony.”

For ex­am­ple, BAFTA lacked the funds and was only broad­cast in the UK be­fore Berry, a for­mer TV pro­ducer, took up the academy job.

But she isn’t sat­is­fied with the Bri­tish film awards be­ing seen by many movie­go­ers around the world as a cur­tain raiser to the Os­cars.

“It’s much shorter,” Berry says jok­ingly when re­fer­ring to the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two award cer­e­monies.

“While the Os­cars nom­i­nate as many as 10 films for the best pic­tures award, we de­cided not to do that. In­stead, we set an in­de­pen­dent cat­e­gory for out­stand­ing Bri­tish films whose win­ners can also com­pete for the best film award,” she adds.

Berry cites his­tory, tal­ent and the “Bri­tish sense of hu­mor” as el­e­ments that make the UK film in­dus­try dif­fer­ent from the rest of the world. That prob­a­bly also ex­plains why the cri­te­ria for BAFTA is dif­fer­ent fromHol­ly­wood’s.

In re­cent years, though some best film award win­ners at BAFTA also re­ceived top hon­ors at the Os­cars, there have been ex­cep­tions.

For ex­am­ple, BAFTA win­ner The Queen (2006), which is a “very Bri­tish” film, ac­cord­ing to Berry, didn’t con­vince the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sci­ences to name it the best film.

“We don’t want to be a car­bon copy (of the Os­cars) though it’s an in­ter­na­tional cer­e­mony,” she says, adding that the close ties be­tween Hol­ly­wood and Bri­tish cinema of­ten make it dif­fi­cult for peo­ple not to view the two events with sim­i­lar ex­pec­ta­tions.

“Peo­ple may con­sider many films to be Amer­i­can, but many peo­ple be­hind the films are ac­tu­ally Bri­tish and they are made in the UK.”

Berry also says she hopes there would be cin­e­matic co­pro­duc­tions be­tween China and the UK, and that peo­ple from the two coun­tries have been work­ing to­gether to find sto­ries.

“The boom­ing Chi­nese film mar­ket gives op­por­tu­ni­ties to Bri­tish film­mak­ers to reach a much larger au­di­ence.”

Chi­nese di­rec­tor Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Con­cu­bine won the best-film award in the for­eign lan­guage cat­e­gory at the 1993 BAFTA cer­e­mony.

Zhang Yi­mou’s To Live won the same award a year later. But in re­cent times, Chi­nese faces haven’t been seen among nom­i­nees at the same awards.

It would be won­der­ful if Chi­nese schol­ars study­ing in the UK or Bri­tish schol­ars study­ing in China are rec­og­nized by BAFTA, says Berry.

Con­tact the writer at wangkai­hao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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