Chinese filmmaker chases audience in UK

Updated: 2012-08-26 08:20

By Liu Lu (China Daily)

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The Chinese film industry has grown strong in recent years, but many big-budget Chinese films still struggle, or simply fall flat, at Western box offices.

But top Chinese filmmakers keep pushing to sell their films to overseas audiences. Sun Xiaoxiao, 30, director of the Filming East Festival, promotes Chinese films in Britain to help local people gain more understanding of contemporary China.

"A successful film can have a very strong impact, and even shape the image of a country."

Chinese filmmaker chases audience in UK

Sun Xiaoxiao says film can open a window for Westerners to find out more about modern China. Provided to China Daily

Sun has had a big stage to promote Chinese films of different genres and talented Chinese filmmakers overseas. The festival, founded in 2007, is the country's largest Chinese film festival with about 3,000 registered participants. This year it begins in October in London and other cities in England and Wales, and lasts 10 to 15 days in each locale.

"China does not lack good movies, but needs to explore effective ways to promote them overseas," Sun says, who has seen interest in China grow during her eight years in London.

But Sun says the number of good Chinese films in Western cinemas has fallen just as younger Chinese film directors started looking inward for recognition and box office success.

By far the most successful Chinese films at the box office in the West have been martial-arts films, she says, attracting moviegoers by an abundance of screen action rather than good storytelling. "Chinese culture is more than just martial arts," Sun says. Each year the festival will bring more than 20 China-themed films to public attention, most of them documentaries and art films.

"Our sales pitch is kung fu-free," says Xiao Yang, the festival manager. "At the festival you will see more romance, comedy and art films, and documentaries."

"We want the British to find out more about modern China. Perhaps the films we select are not quite up there with Chinese calligraphy or antiques in spreading traditional Chinese culture, but we have a very powerful platform to promote contemporary China."

In 2009, she says, the humorous dialogue of the comedy You Are the One by the well-known director Feng Xiaogang had moviegoers in stitches, which dispelled our fear that perhaps British audiences just don't get Chinese humor," Sun says.

"The quality of subtitles plays a key role in promoting Chinese films overseas, but there is a dearth of good translators, because you don't just have to be proficient in English, but have literary talent too."