Poor sub­ti­tles mar prospects of Chi­nese cinema abroad

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - ByWANG KAI­HAO wangkai­hao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Chi­nese films are en­coun­ter­ing some dif­fi­cul­ties as they jour­ney along the an­cient Silk Road, a re­cent re­port sug­gests.

In its an­nual re­port on the global in­flu­ence of Chi­nese cinema, the Academy for In­ter­na­tional Com­mu­ni­ca­tion of Chi­nese Cul­ture af­fil­i­ated to Bei­jing Nor­mal Univer­sity says more than 30 per­cent of those in­ter­viewed for the sur­vey con­sid­ered “the thoughts and logic of Chi­nese films dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand” and less than 40 per­cent shared val­ues ex­pressed in the films.

The re­port, re­leased last week, says one-third of the in­ter­vie­wees said they gen­er­ally weren’t in­ter­ested in Chi­nese films.

With China’s film ad­min­is­tra­tors not known to con­duct sim­i­lar re­search, the re­port has be­come an es­tab­lished source of in­for­ma­tion on the re­cep­tion of Chi­nese cinema abroad.

This year’s re­port in­cludes study­ing 46 coun­tries and six for­eign re­gions along the Eurasian over­land and marine routes that were once con­nected to China through trade and cul­tural ties.

Some 1,800 an­swer sheets from or­di­nary movie­go­ers in these places were col­lected in 31 lan­guages for the sur­vey.

HuangHuil­ing, head of the academy and the re­port’s main au­thor, says tra­di­tional sur­veys based on in-depth in­ter­views are more suit­able to spot prob­lems as com­pared with the pop­u­lar big data anal­y­sis of the re­cent times.

“The sta­tus quo isn’t good,” Huang says. “To in­crease our in­flu­ence overseas, the qual­ity of Chi­nese films needs to im­prove.”

Only 30

per­cent

of

the in­ter­vie­wees gave pos­i­tive com­ments on “sto­ries, per­for­mances and pro­duc­tion of Chi­nese films”. But nearly half saw strong self-defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics in Chi­nese cinema.

“It also tells Chi­nese film­mak­ers to stick to their own fea­tures to win broader at­ten­tion,” saysHuang.

There isn’t enough in terms of pro­mot­ing Chi­nese cinema abroad, es­pe­cially in chan­nels closer to peo­ple’s daily lives, the re­port says.

Merely 7.8 per­cent of the in­ter­vie­wees no­ticed out­door ad­ver­tise­ments of Chi­nese films in their home coun­tries; 36 per­cent never found any in­for­ma­tion on Chi­nese films in their com­mu­nity-level ac­tiv­i­ties; and 70 per­cent were un­sat­is­fied with sub­ti­tles in their na­tive lan­guages — poor sub­ti­tles are stop­ping Chi­nese films from reach­ing more for­eign au­di­ences.

Luo Jun, deputy head of the academy, says: “To have qual­ity sub­ti­tles, one will need to un­der­stand both Chi­nese cul­ture and the cul­ture of the for­eign coun­try.

“We need Chi­nese who know for­eign cul­tures well and ex­pats who have abun­dant knowl­edge of Chi­nese cul­ture.”

But for­eign par­tic­i­pa­tion in pro­duc­ing sub­ti­tles is usu­ally not enough, which of­ten leaves Chi­nese films mak­ing literal trans­la­tions with­out re­flect­ing con­text. The situation is more em­bar­rass­ing for lesser-spo­ken lan­guages, he says.

Dif­fer­ent re­gions along the an­cient Silk Road vary greatly in terms of the un­der­stand­ing of Chi­nese films, Huang says of the sur­vey.

While South­east Asian coun­tries showed eas­ier un­der­stand­ing of Chi­nese films de­spite lan­guage bar­ri­ers due to cul­tural prox­im­ity, those in theMiddle and East­ern Europe showed lower ac­cep­tance of the films.

Dai Yuanchu, a me­dia re­searcher, says: “When sub­ti­tles are gen­er­ally im­per­fect, au­di­ences with sim­i­lar cul­tural back­grounds can fill the void us­ing their own ex­pe­ri­ences.

“How­ever, peo­ple from a dif­fer­ent re­gion like East­ern Europe will prob­a­bly not be able to catch non­ver­bal mean­ings in movies.”

Kung fu films re­mained the most pop­u­lar genre, but its ad­van­tage over other gen­res wasn’t ob­vi­ous, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Chi­nese films can no longer purely rely on mar­tial arts to win for­eign mar­kets, Huang says.

There were some sur­pris­ing dis­cov­er­ies that could give China’s film in­dus­try newideas.

Chi­nese doc­u­men­taries were most wel­comed in­West Asia and North Africa.

Hor­ror films from China that are of­ten ig­nored by do­mes­tic movie­go­ers were pop­u­lar in Ja­pan and South Korea.

Sha Dan, an ex­pert with China Film Archive, says: “Com­mer­cial pack­ag­ing is nec­es­sary for Chi­nese films if they want to be bet­ter ac­cepted, no mat­ter what genre it is.”

He thinks co­pro­duc­tion is pos­si­bly one of the bet­ter ways to han­dle such is­sues.

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