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Experts claim movies play a leading role in Sino-US relations

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-04-22 09:27
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Cultural exchanges and collaborations, especially through the medium of movies, could provide a bridge for building trust and creating opportunities between the United States and China, experts said at a recent film festival in the US city of Houston.

The 52nd WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, which concluded on April 14, saw industry insiders voicing hope that the festival will create a platform for emerging young talent and a doorway to China.

"Movies have a powerful impact within the bilateral relationship between the two countries, because they make a vivid and profound impression on people," David Firestein, founding executive director of the China Public Policy Center at the University of Texas at Austin, said-in fluent Chinese-at the annual film festival's Asia seminar.

Firestein is also CEO of the George H.W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations and his story with China began 35 years ago. "China is not an abstract concept to me, it's a part of my life," Firestein says in his speech. "My earlier impressions of Chinese culture came from movies such as Raise the Red Lantern and A Girl from Hunan."

A Girl from Hunan, a 1986 Chinese drama, was one of the first films from the Chinese mainland to be commercially screened in the US.

Chinese films used to play a limited role in shaping the way Americans viewed China, but things are now changing. That is why Firestein believes movies can serve as a bridge in the China-US relationship.

"Most Chinese films in the 1980s and 1990s were about historical events, which were hard for foreign viewers to understand," he says. "However, as the Chinese film industry began to progress, it started to focus more on ordinary people's daily lives. That's why more and more Americans have a strong interest in Chinese films today."

Although some Americans still consider China a rigid country, Firestein says movies are helping to break down stereotypes.

"A growing number of young Americans regard China as a dynamic and attractive country, especially after the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games," says Firestein.

Neil Bush, chairman of the George H.W. Bush China-US Relations Foundation, which convenes a conference that brings together leaders from the US and China to forge cooperation on issues of global importance, echoes Firestein's point of view.

"I believe very strongly that cultural exchanges and cultural collaboration, especially in the movie industry, could provide a way to break down mistrust and create more opportunity for collaboration," he says.

Bush made the remarks at the Fame Hall Masters Meeting at WorldFest-Houston, saying that films help connect the US and China.

Bush believes movies, as pop culture, provide an opportunity for people from both nations to learn from each other.

"The more the Americans learn of China's rich history, and the more we learn of China's innate friendship, the more we will want to work with China to solve humanity's greatest challenges," he says.

Li Qiankuan, director of the Chinese film The Star and The Sea, holds a similar view. He says that the Chinese movie industry is growing at an annual rate of 30 percent in terms of output, box-office takings, audience acceptance and international achievements.

"Movies do play a leading role in cultural, social and economic aspects of China," Li says. "Excellent movies are welcomed by both Chinese and world audiences. It's very important to reflect the Chinese spirit through the artistic means of the film."

US producer Joe DeMonico thinks the more American people see Chinese films, the more familiar they will become with the culture and the way people speak.

"The drama, relationships and excitement in the movies are clear, but the culture can sometimes be hard to understand," he says, adding that the best way for Americans to learn about China is to watch Chinese movies.

"It was by watching films that I started to appreciate and enjoy Chinese culture," he says.

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