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Russians turn to China for fresh films

By Xu Fan | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-06 11:45
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Russian distributors at the screening of more than 70 movies, which was held in a downtown Beijing cinema between Oct 23 to 25.[Ph

As part of the domestic film industry's latest efforts to seek overseas market, a marathon screening of 70 movies was held in downtown Beijing for nine Russian distribution companies.

The event was held by the China Film Group Corporation between Oct 23 and 25, and screened six movies in their entirety for Russian buyers, with the others shown in the form of trailers.

Most were releases from recent years, including the epic anthology My Country, My Parents (2021);actor-turned-filmmaker Deng Chao's directorial Ping Pong: The Triumph; director Lu Chuan's Beijing 2022, a documentary about the Winter Olympics; and the animated blockbuster Chang'an, chronicling the lifelong friendship of Tang Dynasty (618-907) poets Li Bai and Gao Shi.

The lineup also included highly anticipated movies scheduled for release in the coming months, such as Hong Kong director Tsui Hark's martial arts movie The Legend of the Condor Heroes: The Great Hero, adapted from one of late writer Louis Cha's most influential novels. Set during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), it fictionalizes the tale of a patriotic swordsman leading the defense of the city of Xiangyang in Hubei province, against enemy invasion.

Liu Chun, manager of the corporation's import and export subsidiary, says that it set up a team to claw back export business earlier this year, and spent the summer reestablishing connections with Russian distributors after the three-year hiatus of the pandemic.

According to Liu, the nine Russian distribution companies were selected from a pool of 20 through consultation with film authorities in China and Russia, as well as industry insiders experienced in international business.

Between April and October, some of the most popular Chinese blockbusters, such as the sci-fi sequel The Wandering Earth II and the suspense thriller Lost in the Stars, were released in Russia, capturing audience attention. Against this backdrop, Liu says that the promotional screenings were designed to boost exchange between the two countries in search of more opportunities for cooperation.

"Over the decades, Hollywood has excelled at producing commercially successful genres such as sci-fi and crime suspense. However, recent successes like The Wandering Earth II and Lost in the Stars demonstrate that Chinese filmmakers have the ability to craft captivating narratives within these genres, while incorporating human-interest elements deeply rooted in our culture and traditions," says Liu.

"The tastes of international audiences have undergone rapid changes in recent years. As most mainstream theatergoers in Russia were born in the 1990s, we believe these screenings will offer valuable insight into the types of Chinese stories that could interest them," he adds.

He says that one rule that has been tested and proven to be successful in most markets is sharing genuine, emotionally driven stories that resonate with people across different cultures, regardless of the cast or the extravagance of the visual effects.

With the event also aiming to import Russian blockbusters to China, Liu says that his team found that only 33 Russian films were released in the Chinese mainland between 2011 and this October.

He says that despite Russian movies having a reputation for historical and war themes, they have also shown a rising diversity of genres, exemplified by the sports movie Going Vertical (also known as Three Seconds), the highest-grossing Russian movie ever released in China, which took in a box-office haul of 91 million yuan ($12.43 million).

Olga Kashirina, a delegate from Moscow-based Bubble Studios, says that most Russian audiences know little about Chinese films, except for a few internationally recognized faces such as Hong Kong giants, Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-fat.

"There is also some the Russian audiences who have heard of director Zhang Yimou, but they are not familiar with other Chinese directors and actors. Participating in this event will help us learn more about Chinese films," says Kashirina, adding that she is amazed at how well-developed the country's film industry has become.




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