China Film File: China At Cannes, Festival Freedom, And ‘No’ For ‘Noah’

Welcome to China Film File, a weekly brief on the business of movies in China. In today’s news: Cannes gets ready for more Chinese attendees, Noah fails to pass China’s strict censorship, and a number of Chinese film festivals plan to head abroad this year.

My Old Classmate.

My Old Classmate.

While Hollywood blockbuster The Amazing Spiderman 2 set a record in China with $10 million in single-day sales, locally produced romance comedy My Old Classmate continued to dominate China’s box offices by pulling in a weekly take of over $34 million. In second place is stylish homespun mystery-thriller The Great Hypnotist. The film is going to Cannes and was already snatched for distribution by Fortissimo (the same group that grabbed Black Coal, Thin Ice). Reviews find it visually compelling but held back by a lackluster story that borrows too much from The Sixth Sense.

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(Box office results courtesy of Box Office Mojo.)

Officials have passed on allowing Darren Aronofsky’s biblical blockbuster Noah into mainland theaters. Although the politically charged epic was converted into 3D with China in mind, the film was denied by censors without any comment. While the Chinese government officially recognizes Christianity, it’s likely that the film’s recent controversy and subsequent banning from countries in the Middle East influenced China’s censors into believing its content is too sensitive to be imported.

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Noah.

In a move designed to strengthen ties to America’s film industry, China’s star-studded Huading Film Awards will be taking place in Hollywood. The bilingual show is set to be produced by Don Mischer and Chinese firm Global Talents, while the organizers of the event expect a potential 600 million international viewers to tune in.

Don Mischer.

Don Mischer.

Concurrently, another festival is setting up overseas. The 10th annual China Independent Film Festival has been set to take place in the UK’s Newcastle, in order to show films difficult to see on the mainland. The idea is to show films that have been banned in China, but not ones that are especially provocative. The festival hopes to show fiction and narrative films that portray local people’s lives. Event co-organizer Sabrina Qiong Yu has said of the programming:

“We’ve been very careful with our film choices, avoiding being overly political because that’s what people expect.

These filmmakers are not dissidents. They just want to bring about a more balanced perspective of China by showing all aspects of life as they see it – both positive and negative.”

Cannes’ market chief Jerome Paillard said that his team expects a serious hike in the number of Chinese visitors this year, estimating that they should be the fourth- or fifth-largest national group in the film festival, up from the eighth-largest group last year. While much of the activity from China is apparently at an investment and technology level as opposed to the sale of films, it is a clear sign that the mainland’s film execs are moving into position to further engage with the film industry beyond Hollywood.

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Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing at Cannes.

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