China Film File: UK-China Co-Productions, ‘White Storm’ Vs. ‘Gravity’, And Overdue Debut For ‘No Man’s Land’

Welcome to China Film File, a weekly brief on the business of movies in China. In today’s news: British Prime Minister David Cameron establishes a landmark UK co-production deal in Beijing, Hong Kong action thriller White Storm outdoes Gravity at box offices for the week, and No Man’s Land is released to box office success after being shelved for four years.

No Man's Land.

No Man’s Land.

Strong opening for director Benny Chan’s action thriller The White Storm. Surpassing even Gravity’s massive box office sales for the week, the Hong Kong-spun gangster movie, along with the successful release of No Man’s Land this Tuesday, proves that Hollywood films aren’t the only force in China’s theaters.


White Storm.

China’s box office numbers for November 25-December 1st (courtesy of Box Office Mojo):

Put away for four years, anti-authoritarian black comedy No Man’s Land turned into a box office phenomenon this Tuesday. Ning Hao’s dark road thriller follows a lawyer driving through western China as he encounters thugs and prostitutes. At odds with China’s censors, there was speculation that the film was set against other major films like Epic and White Storm in order to downplay its release. Unfortunately for those who would like to bury the film, No Man’s Land has generated major acclaim and drew 3.19 million in the mainland’s box offices on Tuesday, outdoing blockbuster White Storm for the day. Trailer below:

LA Times features an interview with Yu Dong, the chief of China’s Bona Film Group. In the interview, Yu Dong touches on a few of the driving factors behind the Chinese-American co-production model, China’s film rating system, and the need for films designed with a global audience in mind.

“Because of certain needs to satisfy the Chinese censorship and appeal to mainland audiences, there would be more footage featuring mainland actors that would get cut out in the Hong Kong version and for global distribution. So it’s not a crazy thing to do.

But overall, these things the government really doesn’t support this way of doing things. It’s just not ideal. You’re not being totally responsible to the mainland audience of 1.3 billion people. It’s almost like tricking them, in a way. That’s why Bona’s stand is to have scriptwriters working together from the beginning, forming a true partnership early on. Hopefully we can minimize version difference as much as possible.”

Bona's CEO Yu Dong. (Kirk McKoy/LA Times)

Bona’s CEO Yu Dong. (Kirk McKoy/LA Times)

British PM heads to China to foster business deals. Earlier this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron appeared in Beijing to push trade discussions and industry relationships between the two countries. Cameron’s visit has also been seen as an attempt to reconcile last year’s economic falling out between the two countries, due in large part to Cameron’s meetings with Tibet’s Dalai Lama, who is considered to be a “dangerous separatist” by the Chinese government.

Only weeks after discussions concerning joint country productions at England’s China Image Film Festival, Cameron’s diplomatic meetings included attempts to foster connections between the film industries of England and China. “People have started calling it Chollywood, but really it’s Chinewood – British films linking up with Chinese partners to access the second highest box office audience in the world,” said Cameron, making a reference to Britain’s Pinewood film studio.

Reminiscent of Hollywood’s recent joint production deals with China, Cameron’s visit brought about a paradigm-shifting deal, putting the UK’s film industry in place to establish Chinese co-production films and sidestep China’s harsh foreign film quota.

British PM David Cameron in Beijing. (AFP)

Panel at Asia TV Forum/Screen Singapore looks at Chinese market. “There are about 3,000 screens in China now, and the distribution of films is very uniform; it’s very hard to see art-house films in cinemas. We need epic films to cover the costs of the new theaters,” says Li Ming, general deputy manager of Wanda Media, China’s largest film group.

The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, the venue for the ATV/Screen Singapore. (Wikimedia)