Cannes misses out on Chinese films, but not Chinese celebrities

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/5/16 19:28:01

Actress Mao Junjie Photo: IC


Actress Gong Li Photo: IC

A frequent guest of the Cannes Film Festival, China faces a cold year for its films at the event this year.

Although the box office and number of films in the Chinese mainland continue to grow, zero Chinese films will appear at the festival, including in competition, Un Certain Regard and special screenings, while the jury also sees a conspicuous lack of a Chinese presence. A situation like this has not occurred in more than two decades, and in fact is actually a rare occurrence for the major European film festivals.

At odds with China's lack of an on screen presence, the number of Chinese celebrities who appeared on the red carpet dramatically increased this year, and include both well-known superstars and lesser-known members of the Chinese film industry.

Chinese absence

According to an article analyzing this year's Cannes published by film blog Movie-Bigbang on WeChat, the film schedules of major directors are a major reason for the absence of Chinese films this year.

Originally many expected that Hong Kong director Johnny To's new film Three would make an appearance this year as it is expected to hit theaters in June. However, the director, who was nominated twice for the official selection at Cannes and was once a jury member as well, told Phoenix Entertainment in an interview that since the film was still in post-production, it wouldn't be possible for him to make it to the festival this year despite the fact that Cannes "is very important" to him.

As for director Yang Chao, a frequent Cannes festival award winner, he revealed recently that the Berlin International Film Festival promised him a spot in the festival's main competition section, whereas he was unsure if he would be able to get into Cannes. In the end, he decided to choose the sure thing over uncertainty.  

As for other frequent Cannes guests, they have no new works this year.

Jia Zhangke, a multiple Cannes award-winning director and previous jury chair, is currently focusing on his new media business. Meanwhile, Cannes award winners Lou Ye and Wang Xiaoshuai are still filming their next works.

Wong Karwai, another former jury chair, and Hou Hsiao-hsien, the best director award winner for last year's Cannes - both famous for taking their time when it comes to making films - are still preparing their new works.

Additionally, Zhang Yimou's new Sino-US coproduction blockbuster The Great Wall is still in post production.

Lost attraction?

Cannes used to be a major platform to promote domestic films.

From House of Flying Daggers (2004) directed by Zhang Yimou, The Promise (2005) by Chen Kaige to Gone with the Bullets (2014) by Jiang Wen and The Crossing: Part I (2014) by John Woo were all screened at Cannes in order to build up hype back at home.

However, the festival's promotional influence seems to be declining in China.

Let's look at The Crossing for example. The film organized a grand opening and screening with its entire cast at Cannes, but that didn't help with the box office, as the film became a financial failure.

More filmmakers are realizing that cooperating with e-commerce platforms and cinema managers at home to improve screening times and tickets sales is much more commercially viable than spending a fortune on promoting a film at an overseas film festival.

Red carpet marketing

While the lack of an official Chinese presence at the festival this year has been considered "disappointing," that hasn't prevented Chinese stars from wanting to attend.

This year, several famous Chinese superstars shone on the red carpet, including multiple Cannes award-winner Gong Li, actresses Li Bingbing, Ni Ni and Zhao Tao, singer and actress Li Yuchun and actor Jing Boran.

Although Zhao was invited by the Cannes organizing committee, Ni Ni appeared to promote her new film, while the others are all spokespersons for L'Oreal, a major Cannes sponsor.

While it should come as no surprise to see big names such as these, what really shocked Chinese audiences was the appearance of several Chinese attendees whom most audiences had never heard of. 

One attendee, later identified by media as Zhao Erling, caught the attention of social media in China with her exaggerated and feathery gown and the fact that she lingered on the red carpet so long that staff had to ask her to leave.

The appearance of unknowns is actually not that surprising as overseas venues have long been a way for lesser-known names to add some "gold-plating" to their resume back home.

Cannes film festival used to be a main battlefield for Chinese filmmakers to show their talent. Sadly, it has gradually become a marketing tool on the pathway to fame.

Newspaper headline: Hot and cold

Posted in: Film

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