China Film File: Youku Crackdown, Box Office Fraud, And Oscars Apathy

Welcome to China Film File, a weekly brief on the business of movies in China. In this week’s news: Despicable Me 2 is trailed by homegrown animation at the box office, new restrictions are imposed on microfilms, and a light shines on box office scamming.

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Boonie Bears: To the Rescue.

While Universal’s Despicable Me 2 continued its massive box office draw this week, profits for the Chinese homespun animation Boonie Bears: To the Rescue soared to second place. The locally produced animation set a new $16 billion dollar opening weekend record. Also pulling in China’s moviegoers this week were the Tom Clancy-dedicated American action film Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and another homespun animated feature, Meet the Pegasus.  

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(Box office results courtesy of Box Office Mojo.)

The Chinese government has started to tighten restrictions on internet-distributed microfilms. China’s online video hosts will now require video creators to register their identities and report their videos before posting in an effort to restrict online content like independent microfilms. As an alternative to the mainstream Chinese film industry, online microfilms are often low-budget, short films distributed on platforms like Youku. While sometimes containing racy content, many microfilm creators believe that the main purpose of the regulations is political. “The only purpose of such a policy I think is to affect the creativity of microfilm-making, and bring it into the regular censorship system so as to carry out ideological control of this gray area of online video,” said online filmmaker Wei Jiangang, whose work often includes queer themes that don’t appear on China’s silver screens.

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Microfilm director Wei Jiangang.

A recent CRI English interview with Ning Hao, the director of black comedy smash hit No Man’s Land, covers many facets of his complex relationship to China’s film culture and his general apathy toward his recent Oscar recognition. Hao also used the opportunity to speak his mind on Ang Lee’s success in America and Zhang Yimou’s recent one-child policy violation scandal:

“If winning awards could garner respect, then consider that Zhang Yimou has won five, right? He proved to the world by winning awards with five of his films consecutively that we also have films and we make them well. We should all respect him now. If this were the case, we should express our thanks to Zhang Yimou, treat him better, and not be that harsh with him. If this was the case, then I hope we could express our gratitude towards him. But it’s not like this. Therefore, film festivals are not important, films are not important, and neither is box office. It is just a job. “

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Ning Hao. (China Daily)

Recent investigations have prompted a look into China’s recent box office fraud. According to sources, scams like under-reporting box office sales to save on taxes and pocketing sales from handmade tickets might have skimmed as much as 10 percent off the top of China’s box office numbers.

Illuminating war crime documentary The Act of Killing has sparked a series of controversial debates in China concerning the country’s relationship with Indonesia. Exploring the nature of evil through Indonesia’s rampant genocide of Chinese nationals in 20th century, the 2012 documentary has received attention from the Chinese media due to an Oscar nomination. Although the film has not been screened in the mainland, it has caused China’s national media to focus on the killings.

 

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