Documentaries add sparkle to country's film industry, says report

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With the unexpected success of Twenty Two, which topped the global documentary box-office charts in 2017, Chinese producers who make such films are on a roll, says a report recently released by Beijing Normal University.

A still of the documentary Twenty-two [Photo provided to China Daily]

The report shows that 16 documentaries were screened in Chinese theaters in 2017, grossing 269 million yuan ($ 43 million), a year-on-year revenue growth of 237 percent.

Twenty Two, a film about sexual slavery during World War II, made a record 170 million yuan, making it the first documentary in Chinese cinematic history to surpass the 100-million-yuan mark.

The other documentaries that did well include Sino-UK production Earth: One Amazing Day and Return to the Wolves, a 98-minute film about a Chinese painter working to return an orphan wolf back to the wild, grossing 47.78 million yuan and 33 million yuan, respectively, to take the second and third slots.

In 2017, China invested nearly 4 billion yuan in total to produce movie and television documentaries, which grossed more than 6 billion yuan.

The two figures are an increase of 14 and 15 percent, respectively, year on year.

"In China, there is sufficient market space for high-quality documentary films," says Zhang Tongdao, who headed the team that wrote the report.

Zhang, who is also the director of the Documentary Center at Beijing Normal University, says that Chinese viewers' diverse tastes in film also bodes well for the documentary sector.

For Guo Ke, the 38-year-old director of Twenty Two, the crowd-funding campaign to raise money for the film shows that a quality documentary can work with Chinese audiences, who were seen earlier to prefer only action-studded films or slapstick comedies .

The crew of Twenty Two contacted more than 32,000 people through WeChat message groups across 50 cities, and their enthusiasm helped boost the documentary's popularity online.

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