Chinese film makers stress creativity, innovation in boosting movie industry

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China has abundant stories to tell, but how to present them as movies globally is the chiefly matter, Chinese film makers have said at an international film festival in the U.S. city of Houston, Texas.

The 52nd WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, which concluded last weekend, has seen insiders voicing the hopes that the festival will create a platform for emerging young talent and a window to China.

Mayor of Houston Sylvester Turner mentioned in his greeting card for the festival that 200 filmmakers from China present the WorldFest Focus on China, and this is "the largest in the U.S."

"I am confident that this momentous occasion will enrich our city culturally and continue to be a remarkable showcase of talent and dedication," the mayor said.

According to well-known Chinese producer and director Jizhong Zhang, the time is perfect for Chinese films to go global in the context of globalization, but challenges exist. "With the development of globalization, movies have become one of the best media for a country to promote its culture to the world," he made the remarks at the Fame Hall Masters Meeting during the annual film festival.

"I've been trying to make Chinese stories go abroad over the past seven or eight years," he said, giving an example of Journey to the West.

Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, which is enduring and popular among people of all ages in China.

"I found that some plots in the story seem very interesting to Chinese people but make no sense to Americans," he said. "So it is very important to find commonalities across different cultures as it helps Chinese culture go global."

Zhang is best known for directing swordsmen TV dramas in China. He told Xinhua in an exclusive interview that he is still working hard to adapt Journey to the West into a film, hoping to make it universally appealing without losing the essence of Chinese culture.

"We want to adapt the work to a globally acceptable fantasy, exploring the meaning of human life," he said.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, China overtook Japan to become the world's second-largest theatrical film market in 2013 and is forecasted to unseat North America as the number one market in 2022.

Li Qiankuan, well-known director and honorary chairman of the China Film Association, told Xinhua that Chinese movie industry is growing with a 30 percent annual rate in terms of quantity, box office, audience acceptance, and international achievements.

Chinese screenwriter Yi Liu, who worked closely with Zhang in his previous TV series, said in an interview with Xinhua recently that even though China is expected to become the largest film market in short order, the country is far from being a big producer comparing to Hollywood.

"We are learning advanced production methods from Hollywood; they are bringing us new, complete, and mature concepts," Liu said, stating that Chinese film industry will be taken to the next level after filmmakers master those techniques.

Similar with Zhang, Liu believes Chinese people never lack story ideas, but just need to figure out the right way to develop them into first-class movies.

"Everyone can be a blue-sky thinker, but it takes good skills to turn ideas into a real, moving, and performable script. That's the difficult part," he added, "and Hollywood has a whole system for this."

Hollywood, the world's oldest film industry, is embracing Chinese culture at the same time. Under the globalized context, Hollywood producers started to add Chinese subplots and Chinese actors to their movies to promote culture exchanges.

"Movies and TV works carry historical traditions, cultural resources, and aesthetic values. It's the best way for cultural exchanges," said Zhang. According to him, the key for Chinese films to become global blockbusters is cultural exchange and cooperation.

"The bottom line is to stay open-minded. Then we could break the barriers of cultural cognition and find common values," Zhang added. "We know a lot about the United States through American movies. I really want to spread Chinese spirit and culture to the world."

Li echoed Zhang's view. "Excellent movies are welcomed by both Chinese and world audience. It's very important to reflect Chinese spirit through the artistic means of the film," said Zhang, who has directed some significant epics and historical dramas on modern Chinese history in the past 50 years.

Meanwhile, Lisa Lu, a Chinese-born American actress, believes the future of Chinese film industry is promising.

Lu, who won the Golden Horse Awards three times in the 1970s, said the presence of Chinese elements in Hollywood has been increasing these years, giving an example of Green Book, this year's Oscar best picture winner.

Green Book, a period drama about race relations in the American South, has resonated strongly in China. The film made its debut in China just three days after winning the 91st Academy Awards, far sooner than any past Oscar best picture winner. Its connections to China played a huge role.

Alibaba Pictures, the film studio arm of Chinese tech tycoon Jack Ma's e-commerce giant Alibaba, participated in Green Book as an investor alongside Participant Media, DreamWorks Pictures and Stephen Spielberg's Amblin Partners.

Lu suggested that Chinese investors help arrange young Chinese talent people to work in Hollywood. "When they go back to China, they can help produce world class films," she said. 

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