Filmmakers: China needs new cultural symbols

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 23, 2018
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Chinese filmmakers discuss how to develop China's new generation of cultural symbols at a sub-forum of the Tenth China Internet Audio-Visual Industry Forum held during the 21st Shanghai International Film Festival, which runs from June 16 - 25, 2018. [Photo/]

Chinese filmmakers believe the country needs new cultural symbols to better influence and satisfy the world's curiosity for China.

"This coherence of Asian civilization has accumulated rich cultural treasures and built a cultural foundation for our nation," said Cheng Wu, vice president of Tencent Holdings and CEO of Tencent Pictures. " However, although the total amount of our cultural products has grown rapidly, we must realize that compared with countries that have a developed cultural industry, we also lack the cultural intellectual properties that have an absolute global influence."

Cheng, along with filmmakers Huang Jianxin, Angie Chai, Lu Chuan, and Yuewen Group CEO Wu Wenhui, attended a sub-forum of the Tenth China Internet Audio-Visual Industry Forum during the 21st Shanghai International Film Festival to discuss how to develop and improve China's cultural assets, which he believed are important vehicles for the nation's image and soft power.

Director Lu Chuan's Disney documentary "Born in China," made nearly US$14 million in North America. Lu attributed the success to three reasons: first, mainstream America's curiosity about China; second, Disney's business appeal in China; third, the film conveyed a fresh and positive attitude of the Chinese people's view on life, which most Americans had never seen before. "China is the world's second largest economy. The entire world is curious about us," he said.

As early as the 1970s, China established an iconic Chinese cultural symbol -- Kung-fu movies, internationally loved through the film and television works of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. "This is easily China's biggest contribution to the global film industry. Chinese kung-fu movies incorporate many traditional Chinese cultural symbols, including props and martial arts skills," said producer and director Huang Jianxin.

Wu Wenhui, CEO of the Yuewen Group, noted that the Monkey King Sun Wukong is still one of China's most iconic cultural symbols. "This is excellent content that traditional Chinese culture has accumulated for many years and is also one of China's greatest national treasures. Whether it is in the Chinese market or the global market, there will be more room for further development, " he said.

Wu believed that if Chinese culture continues to open up to the world in the future, it's necessary to discover and create a new generation of cultural symbols that are consistent with the cultural characteristics of the new era. "It really depends on the joint efforts of new filmmakers and cultural circles."

To a large extent, the sources of cultural symbols are diverse. According to film and TV series producer Angie Chai, food, TV dramas, or even a person's way of speaking and thinking can become a unique cultural ethos. "For example, the representative figures in film and television can help people feel the culture. The support behind this culture is the creator's thinking and understanding of culture."

From Cheng's perspective, creating a new generation of Chinese cultural symbols requires two very important things: First, there must be a prosperous industrial foundation. More importantly, based on the prosperity of these industries, it is necessary to build a new culture that conforms to the Chinese cultural production methods.

"Instead of separating the works in different cultural fields, we can build a cultural IP that truly represents a nation," Cheng continued, toying with an ecological idea which needs an incentive mechanism to promote the integration of literature, movies, animation, film, television drama, games, merchandise and theme parks.

Lu has been pondering how to express his own voice through film and television works. "It's okay to make niche art movies, but for the mainstream market, young viewers also hope to see more positive, entertaining works that can resonate with them. We have our own legends to tell," he said, revealing he is working on a film with the working title, "Bureau 749," a sci-fi film about China's "S.H.I.E.L.D."(the acronym for The Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) with elements associated with Chinese history.

"China has lagged behind Western countries in the era of the industrial revolution. But with the internet revolution today, we are in sync with the world, and we can show more creativity and talent," Huang said.

In addition, the internet's support for the film and television industry is also reflected in capital. But Cheng pointed out that if you really want to help the industry, venture capital needs patience instead of pursuing short-term benefits.

"For now, the continuous development of the Chinese film and television industry is gradually establishing a new batch of cultural symbols. This is something worth looking forward to," Lu Chuan said.

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