By Wei Xi
Taking place on the first day of the 7th Beijing International Film Festival, the Sino-Foreign Film Co-Production Forum is one of the key sections of the annual event. Over the years, while few breakthroughs have been made, the forum has become a platform through which veteran filmmakers and industry insiders from around the globe can share and exchange ideas and opinions.
Held on Monday this year, the forum was attended by Raindog Films co-founder Ged Doherty, Huayi Brothers Media Group Director Ye Ning, Indian producer and actor Aamir Khan, US director and producer Rob Cohen, Serbian director Emir Kusturica and Chinese director Chen Kaige.
In his opening speech for the forum, Li Guoqi, deputy director of Film Bureau under China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, said that 73 co-productions between China and foreign countries were made in 2016, accounting for 10 percent of all domestic films. Li stated that co-productions were a positive trend for the Chinese film industry.
Chris Dodd, chairman of The Motion Picture Association of America, also pointed out that more than 1.4 billion tickets were sold in the Chinese mainland in 2016, far more than the 1.32 billion tickets sold in the North American market.
While China’s box-office revenue only grew by 3.7 percent last year to 45.8 billion yuan ($6.6), Dodd said he firmly believes the Chinese market will continue to grow in 2017.
“Estimates suggest the Chinese box office will reach 50 billion RMB, or $7.2 billion, and may even surpass North America in the next two years,” Dodd said.
Core of a good film
Born to a film family, Khan said he believes the core of a good film is a good story.
“When I read a script and I get excited about it, I don’t think about the audience… I am just thinking about myself,” he said at the forum, going on to explain that while he may not be able to forecast what audiences will like, he knows what he wants to see.
Having acted in different types of films such as 3 Idiots and Like Stars on Earth, Khan said that he doesn’t have a favorite genre. However, “in each genre, what really matters is whether a film has a good story and whether it has great characters.”
As a result, Khan often waits until he finds a good story before he commits to working on a film.
In May, Khan’s 2016 work Dangal will finally come to Chinese mainland cinemas. Featuring several screenings around Beijing as part of the festival, the film has received positive feedback so far.
Agreeing with Khan about the importance of a good story, Doherty added that he feels there are three factors that lead to a successful film – a good story with culture references, a good partner and a social reason for doing a project.
Doherty explained that though filmmakers are bound together often due to financial reasons, “I believe a film has to be culturally relevant to each country.”
“It’s not only about translating the script… it’s about taking the essence of the story and rewriting it with local writers, local producers and local directors.”
It is for this reason that a good partner is very important. However, Doherty explained that it can take a long time. He pointed out that it took him years to build mutual trust with his partners in Beijing.
“I do think that I belong to another world,” joked Kusturica, the director behind award-winning films like When Father Was Away on Business (1985) and Underground (1995).
The Serbian director went on to say that he feels he belongs to a world that is similar to US cinema during the 1970s.
It was a time when “cinema was putting together business elements and artistic elements together,” whereas today he said US cinema tends to separate art and business.
Kusturica said he likes the direction in which Chinese cinema is currently heading.
“China is a good place to believe that cinema will continue being part of [mainstream] culture, not just subculture,” the Serbian director said, noting that he has noticed a worrying global tendency in which cinema is becoming more like video games.
Ever since the first forum was held during the second Beijing International Film Festival in 2012, it has set its format as a two-section forum with each section inviting three panelists from different countries and regions.
Over the years, these panelists have included French director Jean Jacques Annaud, US director Oliver Stone and US actress Natalie Portman.
The forum is closely linked to the recent trend toward increased international co-productions welcomed by Chinese filmmakers and the Chinese government, who hope to bring Chinese stories to a global audience, while also learning from film industries around the world.
Through there have been few financially successful co-productions between China and other countries, many industry veterans at the forum remained positive about co-productions.
In his opening speech for the Monday forum, Dodd said he thought highly of the Chinese film market’s performance over the past few years. As a US film industry insider, he sees co-productions as beneficial for the film industries in China and the US.
Giving his advice to filmmakers around the world, Dodd said that “the Chinese audience is a sophisticated audience. They appreciate great diversity in films” and are sure to enjoy any work that “can challenge their thinking, inspire and stimulate them.” – (Global Times)
The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily