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Filmmakers encouraged to go for realism

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-07 07:00

President asks advisers in art, culture, social sciences to place people at center

Chinese filmmakers and TV producers said they were encouraged by President Xi Jinping's speech on Monday calling for more realistic themes during a discussion with political advisers from culture, art and social science circles.

Xi called on the political advisers to listen to the voice of the times, keep up with the times and put the people at the center of their work.

"It should be an eternal theme for filmmakers to get rooted in people's lives and modern reality," said Yin Li, deputy director of the China Film Directors' Guild, who is also a member of the 13th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee.

"Chinese cinema has been kidnapped by money for a long time," he said. "They are not to blame because many cinemas are in downtown shopping malls. The lucrative films get more chances to be screened, which leads to a trend of overwhelming entertainment."

He added that many reality-themed productions closer to everyday life - which may be of high quality but have less commercial value - are thus neglected.

China had more than 60,000 film screens at the end of 2018, more than any other country. Total film box office revenue last year was 60.9 billion yuan ($9.1 billion), the second-highest in the world, behind only the United States.

"There's no doubt China will soon become the world's largest film market," Yin projected. "Our film industry is large, but many works need to be done to answer the new demand to better tell Chinese stories and reflect Chinese values."

He noted some changes that took place last year.

For example, Dying to Survive won public praise. It earned about 3 billion yuan, becoming the third-highest-grossing film being screened in China in 2018. On douban.com, the country's major film review website, it was rated 9 out of total 10 points.

The film was adapted from the real-life story of smuggling cheap but unlicensed cancer medicine from India to patients in China.

In China's national meeting on film industry development in February, the goal was set to produce 100 films annually with more than 100 million yuan box office revenue - and "most of them should be themed in reality".

Feng Yuanzheng, an actor and another political adviser, said realism will help more Chinese films succeed abroad. He said Chinese filmmakers who wanted global recognition once went in the wrong direction by pandering to overseas filmgoers' tastes and describing the dark side of society to win sympathy.

"However, when you really get down to earth and truly experience different people's lives, you can get much positive energy," Feng said. "Told with emotion, these stories will travel worldwide naturally."

Hou Guangming, Party chief of the Beijing Film Academy and a CPPCC National Committee member, said that despite Chinese film genres becoming more diverse in recent years, big breakthroughs and in-depth exploration are still generally lacking when moving the spirit of the times onto the big screen. More creative ideas are needed, he said.

Films reflecting modern Chinese people's strong spirit, even if not about real life, also show filmmakers' keen observation of the times, said political adviser Li Yeping, deputy dean of the School of Communication at Shandong Normal University.

For example, she said, The Wandering Earth, a Chinese sci-fi movie on how humans cooperate in the future to move Earth and escape an expanding Sun, became a cultural phenomenon during Spring Festival.

It earned more than 4 billion yuan at the box office in China and has become the world's second-highest-grossing non-English film of all time.

"The film is developed from our realities today," Li said. "An artist should find inspiration in their own emotions rather than blindly following others' works to avoid homogenization."

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