China Film File: ‘Grandmaster’ Sweep, Crowd-Funded Films, And China’s ‘Need For Speed’

Welcome to China Film File, a weekly brief on the business of movies in China. In this week’s news: The Grandmaster sweeps the Asian Film Awards with a mixture of acclaim and sadness, a landmark second film distribution license is confirmed, and Daniel Fu Dong, the art director of 2014 blockbuster The Monkey King, talks about his four years spent on the film.

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Chinese audiences showed their “need for speed” at the box office this week.

Need For Speed continues in top gear at China’s box offices while the release of thriller Black Coal, Thin Ice finds a lackluster opening week running behind Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer. While the Berlinale award-winning film still pulled in more than Fighting, it’s very likely that a significant cut of box office business was robbed from the film due to a massive negative advertising campaign lodged by Fighting’s producers and director.

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(Box office results courtesy of Ent. Group.)

Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster swept the 8th Asian Film Awards in Macau with seven prizes, including Best Picture. Winning almost every major category, this year’s awards saw Wong nabbing the honor for Best Director, while Zhang Ziyi claimed Best Actress.

A bittersweet victory, director Wong Kar Wai used the opportunity to voice his sadness over the loss of martial arts choreographer Ju Kun, 35, who was unfortunately riding the now-missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Asking for greater transparency regarding the search for the missing airplane, the director was joined by starlet Ziyi who added,

 “Today, I’m very emotional. It’s also because there’s a friend from the crew, we have to bid farewell to him forever. It has taught us to cherish life and those around you. We also need the truth for all the families.”

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Director Wong Kar Wai and actress Zhang Ziyi at the AFA. (Kin Cheung, AP)

Here’s a list of some of this year’s top award winners:

Best Newcomer: Jiang Shuying (So Young – China)

Best Supporting Actor: Huang Bo (No Man’s Land – China)

Best Supporting Actress: Yeo Yann Yann (Ilo Ilo – Singapore)

Best Screenwriter: Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox – India)

Best Cinematographer: Philippe Le Sourd (The Grandmaster – Hong Kong)

Best Production Designer: William Chang Suk-ping, Alfred Yau Wai-ming (The Grandmaster)

Best Composer: Umebayashi Shigeru, Nathaniel Mechaly (The Grandmaster)

Best Editor: Shin Min-kyung (Cold Eyes – South Korea)

Best Visual Effects: Jang Sung-Jin (Mr. Go – Japan)

Best Costume Designer: William Chang Suk-ping (The Grandmaster)

The China National Culture and Art Corporation (CNAC) has become the confirmed recipient of a second license to import and distribute films in the mainland. This is a first for the mainland’s film system, where distribution has up until now been held under a monopoly by the China Film Group (CFG). Exactly what role the CNAC will play to the CFG is still speculation, however. When it comes to a possible increase in the allowable quota of imported films, one source close to the deal has been quoted saying:

“It is not likely to translate into an increase in the quota system immediately. The aim is to put this on a business footing and make it a success. They will probably each have 17 films, but that is unlikely to happen immediately as CNCAC doesn’t have the infrastructure.”

The CNAC will be collaborating with two companies from Hong Kong, i-Marker and China Railsmedia, the latter of which will be joined by previous Columbia Tristar head Chris Lee. Formerly a producer on blockbusters like Valkeryie and Superman Returns, Lee is one to watch, since he will undoubtedly take a key position in coming negotiations of the import of foreign films into China.

Alibaba has launched a kickstarter-like program called Yu Le Bao where individuals may crowd-fund projects and films (sort of). Only Alibaba chooses the films and projects users can invest in, and at the moment, the service is still far away from any sort of independent film or product-funding organization, with only three or four mainstream films to invest in, and mostly serves to return investments on life insurance and wealth-management products.

In addition, don’t forget to check out Jing Daily’s interview with Daniel Fu Dong, the art director behind the biggest Chinese film of 2014, The Monkey King. In the interview, Daniel provides insight into his four years of cumulative work behind the epic international production.

 

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