China forges UK film partnership

Updated: 2014-06-05 06:52

By Zhang Chunyan (China Daily)

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Working together

Kong Xiangxi, chairman of the Committee of the China International Film Festival London, which was launched last year, expects his team will work with British filmmakers on more co-productions.

"We can have Chinese directors and actors working with British production teams and techniques. We want them to work together to promote Chinese films," Kong says. "The film festival itself is for the British filmmakers and the Chinese filmmakers to learn more about both UK and China. We want to shape an image of Chinese films interacting with international counterparts."

Remaking films that are worthwhile is also one of the possibilities of co-productions.

Chinese film producer Feng Xiaogang told BBC World in a recent interview that Duncan Kenworthy, who produced Four Weddings and a Funeral, has hinted that he would like to team up for a Western version of Feng's hit movie A World without Thieves.

Originally made in 2004 and set largely on a train, the film pits a pair of plucky professional thieves against a rougher bunch of gangsters, with both groups targeting a naive village lad traveling home with his life savings in cash.

In recent years, China has had experience in movie co-production with other countries like the US, Australia, Italy and Canada.

Jia Zhangke, Chinese producer who attended a BFI event in London in May, said: "The core competitive edge of films is about the creativity and story of the film itself, which applies to all types of films, no matter if it is an artistic film or a commercial film.

"We should learn from the story popularization skills of Hollywood movies."

Jia said Hollywood films, irrespective of their genre, always incorporate spiritual stories or psychological aspects.

"This psychological content can be precisely popularized as it is acceptable to all age-groups, including primary school students. This is a very powerful aspect that Hollywood films have."

For co-productions that need actors from both countries, insiders say, the biggest problem is that while some actors are well known in China, they are not famous elsewhere, and hence have very little box office appeal.

Alcantara says that some Chinese films, particularly comedies, don't find acceptance outside of China. He cites the example of Lost in Thailand, a Chinese sleeper hit that breached the 1-billion-yuan ($160 million) mark for box office receipts in 2012, netting $227 million in total. But the movie barely traveled anywhere else. "It is very local and specific."

Some British filmmakers say that it is difficult to get official status from the Chinese government for co-productions. Other challenges include the release approval process, which often remains hazy. China's film system also follows a rating system that is totally different from Western nations'.

"Every country has its own film system," Xiang Xiaowei, cultural counselor at the Chinese embassy in the UK, says, adding that British filmmakers can soon learn more about China's market requirements.

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