T he arts is not a new concept in Chinese modern society, yet in recent years, there has been a resurgence, especially in the fields of the performing arts and cinema.
Gaining notoriety throughout the rest of the world during the 1960s was European Art Cinema, a genre of filmmaking that, let us be honest, no one really understood at the time, and with which many to this day still struggle to “get the gist”. Peculiar as it may seem to some, it is treasured by others; looked upon almost as part of the machine of modern intellectual thought and artistic expression and celebrated as such.
We now understand that European filmmaking is not only made up of art cinema but mainstream blockbuster hits, award-winning documentaries and a sea of wonderfully crafted humorous, dramatic and culturally opulent, perfectly understandable films. It is the producers of these films who are now beginning to work with emerging Chinese film producing talent, through teaching, exchanging and building bridges between Europe and one of the most sought after countries and markets in the world today.
European film association Bridging The Dragon, which is in partnership with Marche du Film, recently passed through Nanjing. Italian Managing Director of the association and Producer/Director Cristiano Bortone (right) set time aside for The Nanjinger. Most noted for his award winning films “Oasi” and “Red Like The Sky”, Bortone has also taught film at the Beijing Film Academy. “Three years ago myself and a group of European producers felt it was our duty to promote quality of film within the [Chinese and European] film industries and to promote proper collaboration between Chinese and European producers”, said Mr. Bortone.
After the success of previous editions, the aim of the initiative is still to foster the development of projects suitable for collaboration between the European and Chinese film industries. Respected scriptwriters and production experts will tutor film projects from China and Europe, in order to help overcome cultural differences and improve their feasibility, but mostly, once more the event will become an inspiring think tank with open speeches and discussions, offering the chance for selected film professionals to establish personal relationships.
This year, among the tutors were respected director/screenwriter Cao Baoping, novelist and screenwriter Yan Geling (among whose many titles are Zhang Yimou’s “Flowers of War”, “Coming Home” and the new Feng Xiaogang flick “Youth”), and scriptwriter Philip LaZebnik (behind many animation blockbusters such as Mulan, Pocahontas and Prince of Egypt).
“This is the third edition of the lab. Year after year, we have witnessed how important the in-depth residential experience has been in closing the cultural gap between the two worlds and creating personal relationships that are key to long lasting collaborations. Some of the projects from the 2015 edition are going into production now and many of the attendees are actively involved with each other. This makes us very proud and willing to make this format continue and grow”, said Mr. Bortone. “[It is greatly indispensable amongst film makers] because the only rule in film making, is that there is no rule, if there was a rule or a step book, everyone would follow it.”
Each year 12, European and Chinese projects are selected to attend the various workshops, talks and networking events, in China and in Europe. During this edition, Nanjing University of Arts hosted open conferences by some of the tutors. Yan discussed the challenge of adapting novels into movies with Bortone (whose co-production “Coffee” is now nominated for the Media awards at SIFF), script analyst Alex Jia challenged LaZebnik on the topic “How to make film stories great”, Rikke Ennis gave an overview of the potential of Chinese films on the global market, while Locarno and Udine programmer Maria Ruggieri explored the world of international festivals.
Bortone later went on to say, “China is now turning to Europe in an effort to invest in quality film making. [The] Bridging the Dragon association targets existing well-known and established companies. What it [the association] gives Chinese producers is access to public funding and beautiful locations within Europe and vice versa… As Chinese society is changing, we see a lot of younger people travelling abroad and so the Chinese audience is now looking to see better, more sophisticated films.”
Refined tastes are the latest fashion with the emerging Chinese middle class; the more exposure they get to European lifestyles, the more they want. Indeed, wine, oysters and champagne were the precursors to cinema. A deeper, better understanding of each other is the Chinese and European reward from these celluoid raw reflections of real life. From a European perspective, the more audiences know about China told from Chinese artistic perspectives, the better.