Feature: Filmmakers at Venice address developments in China's film industry

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Italian and Chinese filmmakers here at the 73rd Venice Film Festival found comfortable space to exchange experiences and address the latest developments of China's growing movie market from within.

Directors, screenwriters, and other cinema industry's creative figures took indeed the stage at the third edition of China Film Forum held during Venice Days independent event earlier this week.

During and alongside debates, they addressed key issues such as the differences of writing for a Chinese or a European audience, the perspectives of Italy-China movie cooperation, and the crucial role creative professionals would play in shaping the future of Chinese cinema.

"A huge bet has been for me how to convey message and feelings of my story into a single film destined to both Chinese and Europe," Italian director Sergio Basso told Xinhua.

Basso directed documentary "The Long March", filmed in China and co-produced by Beijing TV Station (BTV) and A&A Media-Huahuang Pictures.

It was "not a history documentary, but a film about love and youth today in China ... About how young people in China struggle to reconnect with the recent past of their country, about the pulse of youth in China today," the official presentation read.

The long feature was to be officially released in autumn 2016, according to the producers.

"It has been a tricky task, since we have (in China and Europe) very different tradition of photography, visual references, sense of humor, and vision of the world," Basso explained.

Experienced in the Chinese movie industry, the Italian director explained a key factor in a truly successful artistic cooperation was "finding a common ground."

"Forums and discussions are useful up to a certain point ... Then, we have to step beyond words."

Basso agreed with other colleagues at the forum that Italy and China would both benefit from allowing their respective creative talents share more time and space.

"I adore the Chinese culture, and I have been exposed to it for two decades now. So, I guess I can face what the problems are," the 41-year-old director said.

"Co-production alone is not enough: co-creation entails friendship, and we become able to write together only if we get to know each other better day by day, and glance after glance."

"This does not mean compromise, since compromising is getting to a downward deal," he stressed.

From the Chinese perspective, an interesting contribution on Chinese market's new trends and challenges came from Shu Huan, screenwriter of blockbusters "Lost in Thailand" and "Lost in Hong Kong", and "Go away Mr. Tumor" screenwriter Yuan Yuan.

Both acknowledged the recent diversification in the Chinese movie industry was overall positive, and possibly helpful for creative professionals.

"Having more and more variety of film genres is good for the industry, and for the Chinese audience," Shu Huan told Xinhua.

Comedy was undoubtedly the most loved genre by Chinese now, and Shu liked creating such stories.

"From another perspective, though, our market is still not mature: there are not enough statistics to help filmmakers understand what kind of audience each genre can reach," he noted.

As such, having more studies on the different kind of films' impact on the market should be a goal in the future. Another would be to try to reach a better balance between investments and contents.

Indeed, with some 7,400 cinemas, 40,000 screens, and an average 20 screens added per day, China is expected to become the world's largest movie market within a few years.

In 2015, the Chinese box office grew 48.7 percent compared to the year before, booming to a record 6.78 billion U.S. dollars, according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT).

Massive flows of capitals were pouring into the market. This offered unprecedented opportunities, but might also hamper creativity, according to both Shu and Yuan.

"A lot of capitals are flowing in, and a lot of companies from outside the sector invest in cinema," Yuan said.

This sometimes put pressure on the filmmaking process.

"You usually need a certain period to create a movie: for example, you would need 8-12 months to write a decent story," Shu explained.

Yet, investors were keen to have a fast return of their investments, and especially on a market like China's that has been allowing huge box office revenues.

Such pressure to maximise the potential of the investment, "would not help the normal creative process," if screenwriters were not able to keep control of their stories.

This might proved especially difficult for younger professionals, as Yuan noted.

"At the moment in China there are few established screenwriters, such as Shu Huan, who have enough power to really influence the creative process during production," she explained.

Chinese creative professionals were not alone in facing the challenge.

"Writers everywhere face similar problems: a sort of confrontation between the financial and the creative sides in a film production always takes place, and I suppose Italian colleagues would face the same problem and try to find the same balance," Shu said.

In a movie industry "still growing ... like an adolescent", with all the strength, energies, and weakness of the growth stage, Shu and Yuan encouraged Chinese colleagues to benefit the most from such moment and "go back to their roots." Endit

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