Chinese art films are changing, and finding the right audience is still the most important proposition at the moment

    On May 22, the "Art Film Exhibition 2023 Spring and Summer Theme Screening and Art Film High-quality Development Seminar" jointly sponsored by the China Film Archive (China Film Art Research Center) and Shanghai Theater Academy was held in Shanghai.

    "Art Film Exhibition · 2023 Spring and Summer Theme Screening" selected ten excellent domestic art films - "Umbilical Cord", "Cosmic Exploration Editorial Department", "Liu Qing", "There is Her in the World", "The Light of the White Tower", "Yoko" Confusion", "The Legend of the White Snake·Love", "Follow the Light", "Anita Mui" and "Stories of Yong'an Town" will be screened for 500 times in five cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Xiamen, and 20 after-screenings will be held at the same time exchange activities.

    The symposium held on May 22 was themed "Influence and Dissemination: A Symposium on the High-Quality Development of Art Films." Inject new vigor and vitality.

    Seminar site

    From the Chinese school to contemporary Chinese art films, not just cultural symbols

    Film has an irreplaceable unique charm in cross-cultural communication, and has always played a pivotal and unique role in the communication and integration of different cultures. Shanghai is one of the most important centers of international film exchanges in my country. At the moment when promoting the high-quality development of Chinese films and promoting the construction of a strong film country, how Chinese film works can be displayed in the world film with distinctive Chinese characteristics, Chinese style, and Chinese style? Lin, creating good works that resonate with the times and our audience, became the main direction of the experts' discussion that day.

    "To some extent, an excellent art film is a national business card, one is a mark of the times, and it is an important medium that carries the values and ideology of the Chinese nation. Excellent art films can enhance my country's international communication power and international influence. It can promote Chinese culture to go to the world better." The host Huangfu Yichuan opened the topic for the seminar that day.

    Academically speaking, "art film" is not a very accurate term. But these four words imply certain spirits of the film, for example, courage to explore, dare to innovate, and dare to express. Starting from the earliest Chinese art films that went to the world, we cannot avoid the Shanghai Art Film Studio that created several generations of brilliance and the "Chinese School" animation that was once world-renowned.

    "Chinese Strange Story" poster

    Li Zao, deputy general manager of Shanghai Film Co., Ltd. and chief producer of "China Strange Story", said that although the current term in the market is called "animation", in the past we described it as "art film". , I hope that various forms of Chinese art can be used in the performance of movies. "From the perspective of art, the appreciation of 'beauty' is common in the world." On the other hand, "From the expression of art, language, and subject matter, animation has a greater sense of universality. Teacher Te Wei, the first factory director of Meiying, once put forward a slogan—exploring the road of national style, knocking on the door of comedy style, integrating and inheriting national expression and national art. During this process, the creation of Many art forms that are not available in the world, such as ink animation, are created by ourselves.”

    The combination of film and traditional art has continued to this day, and it can still burst out new sparks. Li Zhen, deputy director and researcher of the Film History Research Department of the China Film Art Research Center, specifically mentioned the art film "Spring River Plumbing" that shined in Cannes a few years ago, "Today we should rediscover in our culture, Chinese traditional The application of scroll-style banner paintings in the movie "Spring River Plumbing" shocked us, and the combination of secular life and temple culture to such an extent also inspired many people."

    "Spring River Plumbing" poster

    Documentary director Zhang Tongdao shared that he once talked with a professor at USC about what kind of Chinese films really caught their attention in the eyes of mainstream Western audiences. The answer is Bruce Lee.

    "From Bruce Lee's actions, Americans suddenly realized that outside of Hollywood, there is another kind of movie that can be called 'the world', and that is Chinese movie. I was thinking why Bruce Lee? First, Bruce Lee really put The essence of Chinese culture has been refined to a high level. This buddy is a philosopher. From doing nothing to doing something, he turned martial arts into a philosophy of life. This is what Bruce Lee is good at. And this guy can write poetry, and write At the same time, he integrated Chinese Kung Fu into Muay Thai, Korean Taekwondo, Philippine Nunchaku, and American boxing. This kind of 'integrative' power, the power of inclusiveness, is the power of Chinese culture. If you set up obstacles everywhere and close doors and walls everywhere, it is not Chinese culture." Tongdao Zhang said.

    From the achievements and cultural influence of Chinese art films in the early years to the present, the Chinese expressions presented by talented young directors at the International Film Festival are also eye-catching.

    Yang Cheng, the producer of art films such as "Home in a Place with Lush Water and Grass", "The Big World" and "A Strange Guest in the Empty Mountains", is a young producer who has been active on the stage of international film festivals in recent years. He has a good relationship with many young art film directors. In his observation, Chinese art films have now shown a newer and more diverse look.

    "In the past few years, we have seen that the faces of Chinese directors appearing at international film festivals are getting younger and younger, and their works are becoming more and more diverse. The difference is particularly large. International film festivals had some specific imaginations about Chinese films before, but now they have calmed down their mentality. They know that China is so big and complex, and the output of Chinese films is so large. From this, it will be deduced that Chinese film is a field with very diverse personalities.”

    "Last Night on Earth" poster

    Yang Cheng listed several directors who are currently receiving more attention at the International Film Festival, "Their films are very different, such as Bi Gan's formal aesthetics, and the formal experiments are not only long-shot and structural experiments, but also The innovation of viewing methods such as wearing 3D glasses in the middle of "The Last Night on Earth" is part of his formal experiment. In "Spring River Plumbing", director Gu Xiaogang developed his own characteristics based on traditional Chinese landscape aesthetics. The impromptu sketching styles of Chinese urban youths are very different among them." In Yang Cheng's observation, "the new generation of directors, they have a relatively light state. Before the International Film Festival, watching Chinese films in the early years was when They watch documentaries, because they have too limited channels to understand the reality of China, and it is difficult for other Chinese products to go international. But now they will look at Chinese films from the perspective of film form aesthetics, and accept the value of Chinese films in this regard. This has been achieved through the efforts of all aspects, and it is also a look that Chinese films will naturally present at this stage of development."

    In the observation of Wang Xiaonan, a film selector of the National Art Film Alliance, domestic art films are accompanied by a large number of domestic film festival venture capital, "Most of their funds come from domestic venture capital, unlike many art films in the past, many received With the funding from European film festivals, we go to participate in European film festival awards, and then enter European art theaters or distribute on TV and DVD platforms. In this way, from creation, production to circulation and distribution, the whole process starts from domestic After setting off and returning to the domestic state, his face will definitely change to a certain extent. The sense of loneliness and estrangement in "The Light of the White Tower" is very similar to some of our feelings during the epidemic, and it is similar to the politics of European film festivals in the past. There is a big difference between correct or marginal, or even orientalist films. Our current domestic art films no longer blindly pursue Western aesthetic preferences, and there is a great breakthrough in the diversity of themes. .”

    "The Light of the White Tower" poster

    Professor Wan Chuanfa, deputy director of the Film Production Department of the Film Academy of Shanghai Theater Academy, deputy director of the Film Culture Research Center, said that in recent years, the cross-cultural collaborative creation of Chinese films has also undergone changes. "The biggest change is the environmental change. During the period of vigorous and prosperous globalization, everyone wants to expand outward, integrate outward, and achieve global integration. But currently affected by the epidemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine, the big environment is Reshaping the new culture of justice and the alliance of interests, segmentation or difference has become the key word at the moment. This change has a great impact on intercultural communication, especially intercultural communication and production of movies, not just the release or distribution of movies. The problem of screening, in turn, has created a strong constraint on creation and production." At the same time, Wan Chuanfa also mentioned, "The steps of 'outward stride' in recent years have been terminated, and Chinese filmmakers have actually taken a step forward. The new policy is 'inward stride', which is a very big change."

    How Art Films Reach the Right Audience

    For art films, production and creation are a part, and when the film meets the audience, the life belonging to the film is truly complete. From the small-scale private screenings in the early years to the continuous development and growth of the National Art Cinema Alliance, the distribution and dissemination of art films at terminals has also become a hot topic among participants.

    Wang Xiaonan, a film selector of the National Arts Federation, joined the Arts Federation in 2016 to start film selection and promotion work, and has witnessed every stage of the development of the Arts Federation.

    "In the past, we had quotas for imported films, and most of these quotas were given to imported blockbuster films. We would not waste a quota to release and show a film that could not earn billions or billions at the box office. But with the establishment of the Arts Union, art imported films It is not within the original target quota, which sends a very important signal, that is, the Chinese market not only wants to watch commercial blockbusters, but also has a demand for peak award-winning films. Some Oscar-winning films are also distributed in North America precisely by means of distribution They will come to the screening. They will come to find us." Since 2017, "Manchester by the Sea", "Three Billboards", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Rome", "Jojo Rabbit", " Films such as "Father Trapped in Time" and "A Family of Thieves" have achieved success in the screening of art films in China.

    Thieves movie poster

    Wang Xiaonan also mentioned that under the premise of the prosperity of the Chinese film market, a niche market for art films has emerged. Domestic award-winning films have become the focus of selection and promotion after the establishment of Yilian. The establishment of Yilian also provides a stable platform for films.

    At the same time, the Federation of Arts has always regarded the cultivation of audiences as an important task. "In addition to institutions like the Art Alliance, there are also many domestic film festivals, including Beijing and Shanghai film festivals, and a large number of small domestic film festivals that have sprung up around 2017, such as Pingyao Film Festival, Zhejiang Youth Film Week, etc., are all over the country. Start cultivating an audience for art films."

    Wang Xiaonan shared the efforts made by art theaters to find the right audience. "First of all, the money for art films is very limited, the audience is relatively limited, and there is even a certain threshold for watching movies. So what I have to do is to find the right audience and the right movie theaters for good movies. We often see some films box office It’s not ideal, and I will complain about the scheduling of the film, but it’s really not a problem of scheduling, it’s a problem of no one watching it, and it’s not necessarily a problem with the movie if no one watches it, it’s because I haven’t found an audience for this movie. A lot of work needs to be done in this At present, the National Federation of Arts manages 3,000+ franchised theaters on a daily basis, manages and maintains more than 50 movie fan groups in 30 cities, and initiates movie viewing group activities in the vertical fan community, with a very high arrival rate. At the same time, Yilian also cooperates with Tao Piao Piao to gather audiences who have actually bought tickets for art films or participated in film festivals in the online community with millions of fans.

    At the same time, at the terminal of theater screenings, curatorial ability is required as the core competitiveness of theater operations. "This is also based on some practical experience in the work of China Film Archives, art theaters, and the National Arts Federation. We will find that in the future, the development of characteristic and differentiated theater operations requires theater operators to love movies, understand movies, and be willing to follow People who share movies with the audience. How can the audience know when there is not so much publicity for niche-oriented and artistic-oriented films? We emphasize that theater operators should have the awareness to actively find audiences.” In this regard, the National Federation of Arts has established The course system for theater operators is edified from the aspects of film culture and film history. "I hope to turn some theater operators into curators." Artistic movie fans with the ability, through cooperation with local theaters, make use of the daily free time of theaters, and through the interaction of movie viewing groups, let theaters and movie fans get a win-win situation. Wang Xiaonan said, "I hope that through these efforts, we can jointly create a good ecology for the development of art films, which is the so-called unity of purpose."

    Producer Yang Cheng was one of the initiators of the private screening activity "Rear Window Screening" in his early years. With the emergence of large-scale art theaters, private screening activities such as Rear Window have also completed their "phased mission". In Yang Cheng's opinion, "In terms of scale and coverage, the Yilian is definitely the largest in the world. Next, more important tasks will fall on the communication level. We already have such a good creator ecosystem. There are also good film distribution channels and screens in art theaters, and the question of how to reach them is how to accurately convey the information of the film to the audience. This is very technical and requires cost.” Yang Cheng added , the dilemma in the dissemination of Chinese art films is greater than that of other countries, "Because China's mobile Internet has developed so much, the entertainment products we accept are too diverse, too dense, and too voluptuous. China's short videos are definitely the most voluptuous in the world. Yes. Art films need to spend more cost and more methods to compete with these things for attention, which also requires a team of communication and reach. This is the most difficult problem that should be solved next. I hope that after a few years, there will be a more effective method and system.”

    Li Zao started the topic of "communication and influence" with the topic "Chinese Strange Story" that successfully broke the circle this year, "We think more about using a way that can stimulate communication and viewing in the market. The project is more complete. Now the entire animation presents some cross-border and integration in the audio-visual itself. The final viewing platform of this work is on the Internet platform, not on the big screen of the theater. The viewing habits and viewing methods of the Internet platform allow us to With a new experience, it is true that netizens will stop and look at your stuff frame by frame. For example, there are some small goofs that have been found by everyone. This is quite a challenge for creators. At the same time, we I also experienced a lot of fresh feelings in the creative process, and creators can also communicate directly with audiences through bullet screens."

    "China's Strange Story" is undoubtedly a useful attempt by the American Film Studio, "Nowadays, there needs to be a form that conforms to the current viewing habits and makes it possible for everyone to pay attention. No matter movies or TV, they are all competing for everyone's attention. The process. Like "Chinese Strange Story", we feel that the type of work is more exploratory, and this project hopes to find young creative talents during the process." Li Zao said.


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