Filmmakers tackle movie coproduction at BRICS Film Festival

By Li Jingjing in Chengdu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/25 17:53:41

Director Lu Chuan Photo: IC
 

Director Jia Zhangke (front) and producer Han Sanping (second from front) attend the 2nd BRICS Film Festival in Chengdu on Friday. Photo: IC

A few months ahead the BRICS Summit scheduled for September, filmmakers from the five member countries gathered in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, for the 2nd BRICS Film Festival to work on expanding cultural cooperation.

Ten films from BRICS countries will be screened in competition during the five-day festival. Five "Panda Awards" - Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Jury's Special Award - will be awarded during the festival's closing ceremony on Tuesday.

"While filmmakers from the five member countries sincerely wish to coproduce films together, it can be very difficult to do so," producer, director and former president of the China Film Group Han Sanping said at a forum on film coproduction on Sunday.

He said that while producing a film that can cater to the local Chinese market as well as the markets of the four other countries is no easy, BRICS filmmakers are willing to take the risks necessary to find the best way to make films that can transcend differences in culture, religion and language.

"How to find a story as well as to tell it in a way we all like is something we need to think about," Han continued.

One example of BRICS film coproduction is Where Has Time Gone. Made exclusively for the festival, it is an anthology film featuring stories directed by filmmakers from all BRICS member countries.

Jia Zhangke from China, Walter Salles from Brazil, Aleksey Fedorchenko from Russia, Madhur Bhandarkar from India and Jahmil Qubeka from South Africa directed short films which were later combined to become  Where Has Time Gone.

Salles covers the real disaster that happened with a mining company in Brazil that left a large number of workers dead or injured; Fedorchenko tells an odd story of a Russian man dealing with an artificial machine; India's contribution focuses on the relationship between an elderly man and a child living in a modern metropolis; Jia's film features a couple who want to have a second child trying to bring passion back into their relationship; while Qubeka brings audiences a story that is set more than 2,000 years in the future.

The splendor of each culture is reflected as the five stories are brought together in one feature-length film.

Lessons from India

"Dangal inspired Chinese filmmakers," Chinese director Lu Chuan told the Global Times during the festival, referring to the outstanding success the Indian sports drama had in China.

He pointed out that since the film doesn't feature any mega-stars nor had any big marketing push, the only explanation left for its success is the quality of the film itself.

"This success proves that this is a path Chinese films should follow. I think Indian film has really taught us something this time," Lu said.

Unlike recent domestic films which have tried to attract audiences with A-list casts and a fortune spent on visual effects, India films such as Aamir Khan's 3 Idiots and Dangal have received an outpouring of acclaim in China due to their stories.

"Chinese audiences are easily moved by such simple, straightforward and beautiful stories," Lu said.

Indian director Bhandarkar echoed Lu's opinion.

"I think the human touch, the connection, the relationship is a big connection to the audience," Bhandarkar told the Global Times.

He pointed to his short film for Where Has Time Gone as an example. The story features an elderly man who can't keep up with the rapid development of modern technology and therefore has trouble spending time with his family.

Many viewers who saw the film at the festival said they found the film very touching.

Breaking Hollywood pattern

Filmmakers at the festival have overwhelmingly stood behind the idea that BRICS should expand its influence to culture rather than simply focusing on economics.

"Hollywood films have continued to be a major challenge for Chinese films," Han said, going on to explain that he sees this as a universal problem. He pointed out that in many film markets, Hollywood and local films competition with each other leave little room for films from other countries.

"We have to break this pattern, otherwise there will be no diversity of cultures," Han said.

The Chinese market has certainly filled Hollywood's coffers in the past few years. Even critically panned Hollywood blockbusters have continually been high-earners at the Chinese box office. For example, Transformers 4 earned billions of yuan despite unfavorable reviews.

Last month, several domestic films barely managed to make a billion yuan as a box office dominated by films such as Wonder Woman.

Sarah Belcher, a filmmaker from South Africa, a multicultural country that has 11 official languages, said that she believes making films that transcend culture is important, but so too is cultivating talent.

"I think America is closing the door. When America is closing the door, it's our chance to take the talents from the world," she said at the forum.

She stated that BRICS countries now have a chance to develop their own film industries.

During the festival, the five countries also signed a five-year film coproduction agreement. Meanwhile, the Beijing Film Academy announced a five-year talent exchange and training program aimed at discovering and cultivating film talent. Forty scholarships for the program will be given to film talents from BRICS countries.


Newspaper headline: Celebrating the cultural spectrum


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