June 19th, 2019
Beijing Culture’s Song Ge urges directors to reflect mainstream valus
By Rebecca Davis
The publicity-shy chief of Beijing Culture, which has backed such Chinese mega-hits as “Wolf Warrior II” and “The Wandering Earth,” has openly urged film directors to stick to material pleasing to the Chinese state, for the sake of their investors.
“If you’re shooting an art house or smaller budget film, it’s no problem — say what you want to say and shoot what you want to shoot,” Beijing Culture chairman Song Ge said at his company’s first-ever press conference, held at Shanghai International Film Festival on Monday.
“But once you’re shooting with investors’ money, given the societal circumstances we have today, you should shoot films that reflect mainstream values.”
Song described his own company’s mission in simple terms: “Make good films for our audiences and for the country, and also that put money in our pockets.”
He summed up the recent industry climate — at a time when firms have been buffeted by new tax regulations but enjoy a growing box office.
He also urged filmmakers to keep pushing to develop types of content not yet seen in the mainland. “Honestly, there are so many, many genres and subjects that have been done abroad but that China has yet to shoot. We can totally take those and shoot them ourselves,” he said.
Beijing Culture then announced its slate of four films that are nearly finished shooting or already in post-production, bringing each movie’s director and main cast up on stage.
“Dancing Elephant” is first up for release, hitting mainland theaters July 26. The comedy is directed by Taiwanese director Lin Yu-Hsien, whose 2011 Eddie Peng-starring “Jump Ashin!” has a Mandarin title that mirrors this one’s, though there appears to be no link between the two.
“Dancing Elephant” tells the story of a young girl who dreams of being a ballerina but is left in a coma after a car accident and wakes up years later to find that she’s become fat. She reconnects with her old dance classmates, and they enter a dance competition. It stars newcomer Jin Chunhua as the female lead and single-moniker Allen (“Hello Mr. Billionaire,” “Kill Mobile”) as the dance coach who whips her team into shape.
Other films in Beijing Culture’s lineup include director Ding Sheng’s “S.W.A.T.” and screenwriter Dong Runnian’s directorial debut, “The People Snatched by the Light,” starring Huang Bo and Wang Luodan. Dong wrote “Crazy Alien,” “Mr. Six” and “Break-Up Buddies,” among other titles.
“The People Snatched by the Light” tells a tale that sounds remarkably like that of both the bestselling “Left Behind” religious novel series and Tom Perrotta’s follow-up “The Leftovers.”
Dong asserted that the idea for his film just came to him. “One day I was just scratching my head and wondering, what would happen if a beam of light came to Earth and everyone who encountered it suddenly disappeared?” The film tells the story of the event’s aftermath.
The moderator of the press event and lead actress Wang both praised Dong’s originality. “This premise really deserves applause because it’s really so inventive,” the moderator said. Added Wang: “I can’t imagine how the director dug deep in his mind to write such a work.”
Director Lu Chuan promotes his “Bureau 749” which is entering its last week of shooting.
He revealed very little about the plot, but admitted: “When it came to action, I used to think it a bit – well, let’s just say I didn’t understand it well enough,” he said. “Through this film, I’ll become an action director. There’s really a lot of action in this one.”
The film is also quite personal, drawing on elements from Lu’s own youth in military school and, later, his first job at the government research department Bureau 749.
China's Road Pictures buys Cannes films of Terrence Malick, Pedro Almodovar
By Patrick Brzeski The Hollywood Reporter
Rising Chinese specialty film distributor Road Pictures has locked down Chinese distribution rights for an impressive collection of high-profile titles that debuted at the recent Cannes Film Festival in May.
The Beijing- based company has picked up all China rights to Terrence Malick's WWII drama A Hidden Life , Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar's P a i n a n d G l o r y , Marco Bellocchio's mafia biopic T h e T r a i t o r and French Palme d’Or winner Claude Lelouch's romance T h e B e s t Y e a r s o f a L i f e .
Negotiation on the deals began during the Cannes Film Festival where each of the titles premiered to considerable critical acclaim.
"Our focus at Road will continue to be releasing highquality independent movies in China, marking them with a clear strategy and positioning," the company's CEO, Cai Gongming, said at Shanghai International Film Festival.
Road Pictures has secured high-profile screenings for three of its Cannes pickups — P a i n a n d G l o r y , T h e T r a i t o r and T h e Y e a r s — at the Shanghai festival.
Cai's productive 2019 Cannes market follows the hat trick his company achieved at the French event in 2018, when it bought the exclusive China rights to Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore- eda’s Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters , Nadine Labaki’ s Jury Prize winner C a p e r n a u m and Paweł Pawlikowski’s acclaimed blackand-white romance Cold War .
All would go on to be nominated for the foreignlanguage film Oscar although Cai bought the rights to them before they had received any honors.
Road Pictures managed to market and release both Cannes winners to enormous theatrical success.
S h o p li f t e r s
opened in China last July, earning RMB 97.6 million (US $14.1 million, compared with $3.3 million in North America), while C a p e r n a u m debuted on April 29 and soared to more than RMB 346.3 million (US $50 million, compared to $1.6 million in North America).
Film festival directors celebrate the role and influence of their events
By Joyce Xu
Film festival organizers from around the world exchanged views on the role that their events play in today’s film industry at a roundtable discussion at the ongoing 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival yesterday.
The Belt and Road film culture discussion called Film Festivals in Focus also addressed crucial issues affecting festivals.
Stefan Laudyn, the director of Warsaw Film Festival, said his event insisted on having fresh films, and he was always looking for good stories.
He believes that there is audience for all types of films. To attract more young people to attend to their festival, organizers should fit the right audiences to the movies and cater for their specific interests.
He suggested that Chinese filmmakers tell their own stories and that be themselves.
Ilda Santiago, the executive director of Festival do Rio, said the festival was one of the biggest in Brazil, and a big challenge was how to connect to all people in the city.
“Brazil still has a small number of theaters,” Santiago added. “Our work is to help to showcase the good pictures and to get the stories and images out as far as they can go.”
Fu Wenxia, the managing director of Shanghai International Film Festival, said the event has been dedicated to discovering and promoting excellent art movies and absorb fresh blood for the industry.
Despite that competition from online showcases and changes platforms for art films, Fu said film festivals have an irreplaceable role in the industry.
“We have organized a lot of interactive events to offer movie buffs precious opportunities for face-to-face talks with celebrated filmmakers and actors,” Fu said.
Several famous auteur directors, including Brillante Mendoza, Jia Zhangke, Emir Kusturica and Cristian Mungiu, have founded their own film festivals.
Philippine film director Mendoza, the founder of Sinag Maynila Independent Film Festival, said the event was mainly dedicated to young Philippine filmmakers. Although it doesn’t get much financial support from government, the festival is gaining increasing attention.
Film always comes first, and then the music, composer tells Masterclass
By: Rachel Lu
Iranian film composer Peyman Yazdanian considers music to have an attack role in a film because it takes audiences to places through emotion, and that is its power. He was outlining his film work philosophies during a SIFF Masterclass yesterday about making music to complement cinematic productions.
Vazdanian, who has composed for both Iranian and foreign movies and written over 40 pieces for solo piano, shared his rules for good cinema music. He said it must follow the same direction as the image and generate the feelings the director wants. “Good music, you don’t even know it exists. Its strength comes from its size and texture,” he said.
Vazdanian used a two-person scene as an example of when including orchestral music would be overly flamboyant and inappropriate. He said, in contrast, that a solo piece during a war scene could add layers of complexity. “Film always comes first, and then the music,” he emphasized.
This “film first” philosophy is why Vazdanian’s composing process always begins with viewing the film and feeling the emotions.
“Each film I do, I have to believe it’s real. I talk about the characters like they exist. I want to know their emotions,” he explained. His work begins post-production, usually when the final edits are almost finished, so he gets a chance to watch the scenes and get himself into the feeling.
He told an anecdote about when he was in an editing room and naturally walked toward the piano and glided his fingers across the keys. He intuitively began playing the tune that immediately became the perfect fit. “Creating must be done in certain moods, and I always look for signs,” Vazdanian asserted.
When asked if he considered himself a filmmaker or a musician, Vazdanian unhesitatingly answered “filmmaker.” Although his passion is undeniable, he believes that it alone is not enough, and he must continue learning the skills of cinematography and be involved in the entire production process. He is adamant about teamwork and collaborating with directors, even though it is not always easy.
“Those directors who believe they know music are disasters. I’ve never met a director who knows music. Although we all do art, it’s a different language,” he jokingly admitted.
Vazdanian said he is looking for direction and not control, but he also compromises by making the director feel comfortable with the music. Filmmaking is truly a team effort and music is an indispensable element, he said.
Vazdanian’s work is artful and creative and he reflected that he is most interested in films about the society that help him understand humans. He sees nothing extraordinary about himself or his successes and summed up the forum by inspiring the audience with a Tao lesson: “Don’t look to be extraordinary, to be ordinary is extraordinary.”