China Film File: Golden Horse Glory, Jia Zhangke’s Real-Life Drama, And Strong Pull Of ‘Gravity’

Anthony Chen, director of Ilo Ilo. (Straits Times)

Anthony Chen, director of Golden Horse Best Picture winner Ilo Ilo, at the Golden Horse Awards. (Straits Times)

Welcome to China Film File, a weekly brief on the business of movies in China. In today’s news: quiet controversy for the Chinese release of A Touch of Sin, Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards, and Gravity pulls in big profits at China’s box office.

A hushed atmosphere surrounds the non-release of Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin in China: Recently there has been some controversy as to whether or not Jia Zhangke’s award-winning violence morality epic A Touch of Sin will be released in China. Originally slated for release in the mainland, the art house film features four stories based on news events that show the bloody underside of Chinese society that stems from corruption and economic inequality. While this might not sound like a mainland censor’s cup of tea at first, the film, for all its gore, is relatively in step with the official party line and was even made following suggestions from censors. Details concerning the possible barring of the film from China’s screens are vague, with Jia’s group making little to no comment. Likewise, film industry officials have been instructed not to talk about the film. Variety recently reported that Chinese authorities have banned local media from reporting on the film or reviewing the picture in what might be a strange ploy to claim that the film was actually released while keeping it out of public sight.

A Touch of Sin (Mubi)

A still from A Touch of Sin. (Mubi)

London’s China Image Film Festival brings premiers and spurs UK co-productions: Earlier this week, London saw the China Image Film Festival, the largest Chinese film festival in Europe. Although co-productions between China and the UK amount to only about 10 percent of the total joint productions with China internationally, the British film industry is clearly looking to take a page from the recent Chinese-Hollywood film dealings. “So we’ll sit there and talk about policies, tax rate base. We’ll talk about how we can move further, step by step, the procedures of co-productions, how we fund it. So basically the biggest success is the festival moving from the communication platform strategy to the commercial platform strategy.” said Jia Zhendan, chairman of the festival. Taking the award for best picture at the festival was a courtroom thriller named Silent Witness by actor/director Aaron Kwok. With box office numbers in China only second to the Tsui Hark’s spectacular Detective Dee, the popular film features the tense prosecution of a rich man’s daughter for the murder of his wife. Trailer below:

Taking honors at the festival for best screenplay and best director was Xue Xiao for her romance comedy Finding Mr. Right, which pokes fun at China’s out-of-control materialism and vast wealth inequalityPartially a Sleepless in Seattle tribute film, the film’s Chinese name does in fact translate to “Beijing Meets Seattle.” Xue’s film follows a pregnant mistress coming to Canada to have a rich tycoon’s baby in secret, only to have her world upended when she is ditched by her sugar daddy while falling for his driver in America during her “birth tourism” trip.

Alfonso Cuaron’s hard science fiction thriller Gravity delivered at China’s box offices bringing $9 million in its first two days: Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron has spent so much time simulating outer space conditions that now he craves the real thing. During a recent interview in Beijing to promote the film, Cuaron expressed his desire to get an actual ride to outer space from China: “So I’ll keep on pleading. Maybe then Chinese authorities will want to send me to space. I would be very happy to accept the invitation, very honored.”

A still from Gravity. (The Wrap)

A still from Gravity. (The Wrap)

Singaporean film Ilo Ilo takes Best Picture at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards: Today was Taiwan’s star-studded annual Golden Horse Awards. Considered by some to be the Chinese-language Oscars, the award this year for Best Picture went to Singaporean family drama Ilo Ilo directed by Anthony Chen. Although Jia Zhangke, the director of A Touch of Sin, was scheduled to speak at the awards, there are allegations that the current hushed circumstances regarding the barring of his film from China’s theaters are behind his absence.

A still from Ilo Ilo. (Mubi)

A still from Ilo Ilo. (Mubi)

Here’s a roundup of the major awards for this year: Picture: Ilo Ilo; Actor: Lee Kang Sheng for Stray Dogs; Actress: Zhang Ziyi for The Grandmaster; Director: Tsai Ming Liang for Stray Dogs; Debut Director: Anthony Chen; Adapted Screenplay: So Young; Original Screenplay: Ilo Ilo; Original Visual Effects: The Grandmaster; Cinematography: The Grandmaster; Film Editing: A Touch of Sin; Choreography: 12 Zodiacs; Art Direction: The Grandmaster; Supporting Actress: Yeo Yann Yann for Ilo Ilo; Supporting Actor: Li Xue Jian for Back to 1942; Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker: Yu-Ju-Feng; Documentary: Beauty, Beauty, Taiwan From Above; Makeup and Costume: The Grandmaster; Short Film: Butter Lamp; New Actor: Kuo Shu-Yao; Sound Effects: Soul.

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