China Film File: ‘Siddharth’ Surprise, 3D Dilemma, And Oliver Stone’s Adversary

Welcome to China Film File, a weekly brief on the business of movies in China. In today’s news: Ning Hao fires back at Oliver Stone, industry insiders ask for 3D films to stop, and Indian production Siddharth wins best film at this year’s Beijing Film Festival.

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Director Anthony Russo on the set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Amidst the heavy industry shifts and controversy at this year’s Beijing Film Festival, China’s box offices are being dominated by ticket sales of import Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which has most likely by now topped over $100 million. The Johhny Depp headed sci-fi thriller Transcendence also opened this week with a same day release for the United States and the mainland. While already considered a flop, the film’s ticket sales in China have surprisingly outperformed America’s numbers—a circumstance most likely aided by Depp’s earlier tour to select cities in China to promote the film.

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(Box office results courtesy of Box Office Mojo.)

Ning Hao, the director of thriller No Man’s Land, has spoken out over Oliver Stone’s critiques of China’s directors. At this year’s Beijing Film Festival last week, Oliver Stone controversially called for China’s directors to stop avoiding the painful history of the Cultural Revolution. However, Hao cut back at Stone for his patronizing statements in an interview with state-run paper Global Times. No stranger to the trials and tribulations of dealing with China’s film censors (No Man’s Land was in censor limbo for nearly four years) Ning responded:

“He is being belligerent. If we wanted to shoot a film about 9/11, would they be happy? Some questions or areas are sensitive. And China’s problem is not that simple.”

“He said Chinese films need to make their direction clear. Good films and bad films can’t be all decided by foreigners. Chinese films need to get back the right of free speech little by little.”

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Ning Hao.

Film industry insiders at this year’s Beijing Film Festival asked for the industry to hold back the oncoming tide of low-quality 3D exclusive releases, noting that it will only push audiences away from theaters. They cited America’s 3D crash in 2010.  Yang Buting, Chair of the China Film Distribution and Exhibition Association stated, “The 3D film market has grown fast in China but many films lack quality.”

Paul WS. Anderson, director of the Resident Evil franchise was also outspoken on the topic. “If you don’t give them a choice and you deliver bad 3D products, eventually they will stop going to the cinema. American people are choosing to watch 2D rather than 3D films.”

The last few years have seen an extensive market push for 3D films in China, with American companies going as far as to release 3D versions of films exclusively for the mainland like the recent Robocop reboot.

How long before China's audiences get tired of 3D films?

When will China get tired of 3D films?

The Beijing Film Festival’s award for best film has surprisingly gone to an Indian production, director Richie Mehta’s Siddharth. The realist film is based on an actual man the director met, who was in search of his son after selling him off to work in another state.

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Richie Mehta receiving the BFF’s award for best picture.

Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster also continued its industry awards sweep, garnering the Beijing Film Festival’s award for best director, best cinematography for Phillipe Le Sourd and best actress for Zhang Ziyi. Best actor went to Guillame Gouix for his role in Sylvain Chomet’s Attila Marcel.

This Wednesday, Britain finally inked its much-anticipated co-production deal with China, which will allow qualifying productions that feature Chinese investment to side-step the mainland’s strict foreign film import quota.

 

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