Forum discusses women's leading role in China's film industry

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The movie industry in China, much like elsewhere, is still mainly male-dominated. But women are playing an increasingly important role and bringing their own perspective to the screen and the behind-the-scenes workings.

A forum focusing on the role of women in filmmaking was held in the tropical city of Sanya in China's southern province of Hainan on Tuesday with famous female industry players including Liang Jing, Xue Xiaolu, A Mei and Yao Tingting in attendance.

The activity was part of the ongoing third Hainan Island International Film Festival (HIIFF).

At the forum, "In the Spotlight and Behind the Scenes: Women in Film," participants offered in-depth insight into topics such as the market potential for women's films, the creative experiences of female filmmakers, ways to seize creative opportunities as female filmmakers and the future of women's cinema. Panelists agreed that women are playing an increasing role in China's movie industry, supported by more female-led and female-focused initiatives and projects.

"Women have different points of view from men. Sometimes, that leads to very different results. Take the film 'The Eight Hundred' for example, it was a very traditional men's war film. But I advised the director to try and think from a woman's perspective. After about 40 rounds of adaption, the final version we presented to the audience proved to be very popular, especially among female audiences who are not usually the target audience for war films," said Liang Jing, producer of the war epic "The Eight Hundred."

"The Eight Hundred" tells the true story of a ragtag group of 800 Chinese soldiers facing off against the mightier Japanese army in a small warehouse in Shanghai. Directed by Guan Hu, it was Asia's first commercial film shot entirely with IMAX cameras. The movie was released in China on August 21 – the country's first major theatrical release since cinemas reopened in July after shutting down temporarily because of COVID-19. The movie raked in over $476 million in the box office, making it the highest grossing film this year in China.

A Mei, the screenwriter of the award-winning Chinese epic family saga "So Long, My Son," pointed out that Chinese women are now a force to be reckoned with in films. Wang Xiaoshuai's "So Long, My Son" swept the top acting prizes at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival with its two lead actors Wang Jingchun and Yong Mei pocketing Silver Bears for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively.

"I'd say women's films or forums on this topic have been trending in recent years. Traditionally movies were aimed at meeting the male audience's visual pleasure. Now with the growth of female strength, we are having more films made from the perspective of women," said A Mei.

"I was frequently questioned when I first entered the industry. But I'm happy that the movie industry here is fair in general. As long as you have good ideas, you'll be recognized – no matter you're a man or woman," said young director Yao Tingting, whose film "Yesterday Once More" was a hit campus film in 2016.

Xue Xiaolu, one of China's most influential female directors, also took part in the forum. Her films have won multiple awards in China and abroad, including the Outstanding New Screen Writer award at the 15th HuaBiao Awards for "Ocean Heaven," and Best Director at the 2013 China Image Film Festival for "Finding Mr. Right."

"Actually when I'm making films, I seldom think about male or female angles. I always hope I can break the gender barrier and make good films for the audiences. I suggest we hold a men's cinema forum next year as well," Xue said.

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