THE CHINA SYN­DROME

A six-point plan to get­ting your film re­leased in Shang­hai

Empire (UK) - - PREVIEW - WORDS IAN FREER

WITH BOTH GHOSTBUSTERS and Sui­cide Squad de­nied a re­lease in China, Hol­ly­wood is faced with an on­go­ing chal­lenge to get movies shown in what is poised to be­come the big­gest film mar­ket in the world. But with only 34 non-chi­nese films re­leased each year, ne­go­ti­at­ing the re­stric­tive guide­lines is a mine­field. Aynne Kokas, author of Hol­ly­wood

Made In China, gives us the essentials. DO keep it clean. “Lots of sex, lots of vi­o­lence, things that kids couldn’t watch in the theatre, is off-lim­its.” China doesn’t have a rat­ings sys­tem, so all films have to be ac­cept­able to all au­di­ences. This sen­si­tiv­ity also in­forms ti­tles:

Sui­cide Squad be­com­ing Task Force X didn’t help it se­cure a re­lease. DON’T in­clude ghosts and ghoulies. “There is a lot of scep­ti­cism about the pre­sen­ta­tion of su­per­nat­u­ral things. It comes from Marx­ist ma­te­ri­al­ism and the fact that ev­ery­thing should be ra­tio­nal and ex­plain­able.” So yes to dream se­quences and drug-fu­elled hal­lu­ci­na­tions. No to Su­per Power DareTo-die Team (Ghostbusters).

DO make China look big and im­por­tant.

“Sky­fall and Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble III didn’t por­tray Shang­hai as a global city. They made it look old. That was par­tic­u­larly a prob­lem for Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble III. Things that don’t nec­es­sar­ily con­tinue the nar­ra­tive of China as a global growing power can be quickly sub­jected to cri­tique.” DON’T over-es­ti­mate your cher­ished IP. “Brands” like Star Wars may have de­fined our childhood but they mean lit­tle in China. “They don’t have that point of con­nec­tion. You have to re­ally start the mar­ket­ing from the ground up.”

DO keep it up­beat. Kokas ex­plains that for­eign movies are of­ten dis­al­lowed which “are prop­a­gat­ing pas­sive or neg­a­tive out­looks on life, world­view and value sys­tems. Chi­nese films of­ten struc­ture a nar­ra­tive in which there is a purely log­i­cal path, where life is mov­ing for­ward and that our ul­ti­mate goal, af­ter the rev­o­lu­tion, is to find peace.” She sug­gests there could be worse no­tions to pro­mote. “It’s not like Kim Kar­dashian tak­ing off all of her clothes, which just makes me feel like a ter­ri­ble per­son on ev­ery level.” DON’T just throw in a lo­cal su­per­star. “Chi­nese au­di­ences can tell when you just slap things on. There was a lot of push­back from Iron Man 3 be­cause the Chi­nese char­ac­ter [Dr Wu, played by Wang Xueqi, added to the Chi­nese cut] didn’t re­ally do any­thing. It was clearly a sop.”

Dead­shot (Will Smith) and Har­ley Quinn (Mar­got Rob­bie) in

Sui­cide Squad: not avail­able in China.

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