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The 8th edition of the film festival Cannes Film Festival in Bucharest is providing opportunity for Bucharesters to familiarize themselves with the latest Chinese cinema productions.
Among the several films at the festival, The Chinese Widow, screened Sunday evening, has been a major highlight.
'Trends are changing'
"I am organizing this film festival because I want to show what is relevant. I prolong and consolidate an audience for what has been already acknowledged as value in Cannes," said famous Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, three time winner at Cannes and president of the 2017 Shanghai International Film Festival.
"Ten years ago, when my generation and myself were winning prizes in Cannes, people who lived far away couldn't know exactly what was happening at the Cannes festival. So I thought it was imperative to bring them to Bucharest, so I arranged with the film selector from Cannes to bring the films here," he said.
China is currently catching the attention of a lot of directors and producers around the world, especially now that China is actively promoting cooperation in various fields, including in movie industry, as part of its Belt and Road initiative, said Mungiu.
"I chose The Chinese Widow because I liked it very much when I was in the jury in Shanghai, and this film allows me, on the one hand, to introduce directors who won prizes in Cannes and on the other hand, to introduce new films from parts of the world still unfamiliar to us, but very visible in the industry."
The Chinese Widow is a 2017 Chinese war drama directed by Danish director Bille August and starring Liu Yifei and Emile Hirsch. The story is told through the heart-wrenching love story between a World War II US pilot who crash lands in China after a bombing run on Tokyo and the young Chinese widow who saves him.
The film premiered at the 2017 Shanghai International Film Festival as the opening film.
"Trends are changing. Before, directors were imposing themselves after Cannes by making films in America, now they are making films in China, which is a tremendous market. It is very interesting to introduce to the public something unconceivable before - directors and producers who have no knowledge about Chinese realities but go there to make films because they find the necessary conditions," Mungiu explained.
Sun Peng, chairwoman and CEO of Zhejiang Roc Picture and the producer of The Chinese Widow, confessed that she had watched lots of films before she realized that "Bille August was the perfect director for my film."
"I found similarities between our worlds in terms of ideas, story, characters, plot... so we decided to work together. We spent more than four years just writing the script. Then, we reunited our production teams, and creation teams from seven nations," she said.
Sun found Mungiu an extremely professional and inspirational director and she "will definitely work with him later on. I am also impressed by his charity work. This is indeed a duty for film professionals, not only telling stories about people but actually helping people."
Mungiu admitted that he contemplated working with the Chinese film industry, but "firstly, there are many things to learn about that part of the world."
"One major aspect for us to consider is the tens of millions of consumers in the Chinese market, which puts pressure on us, because the Chinese market is developing like the American one: box-office success determines the success of a film."
"While we, the ones awarded in Cannes, are used to a sort of radicalism in film-making in an attempt to expand the limits of cinema as a form of art. In our experience, going off the beaten track is what usually ensures box-office success! We'll have to reconcile our radicalism with the more conservative and traditional Chinese market," Mungiu said.
The Chinese market is extremely attractive because "the number of cinephiles is huge. The number of niche cinema connoisseurs is 100 times larger than our market of consumers, and we can exploit this niche," explained Mungiu.
"Outside cinemas, China has cinephiles who are film consumers on their own, watching tapes in groups, and who know in detail everything about cinema and the films being produced by the rest of the world."
Mungiu said that China has the potential to become a huge market for "European films that are not in English and are not doing very well financially, as national markets are small."
Shared core values
Remembering his time as president of the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2017, Mungiu confessed that he enjoyed all the winning Chinese films. He revealed that these films were also enjoyed by all the members of the jury, who turned out to share core values despite their different cultural tastes.
Moreover, Mungiu admits he also loves the new films coming out of China.
"The best part of the Shanghai Film Festival is the fact that I met a lot of Chinese producers and I am now receiving amazing Chinese films that usually do not reach us, thus getting to know Chinese contemporary cinema better," he said.
Mungiu mentioned a film that he liked "very much" - A Gentle Night by Chinese director Qu Yang, which will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in Bucharest .
"This year I was in the jury in Cannes and we gave an award to this film! I liked this Chinese director so much that I recommended him to my sales manager for the next film he will make with French support."
Chinese films have the potential to enjoy vast success in Europe, stressed Mungiu.
Mungiu's observations reveal that the Chinese film market has huge potential and holds an irresistible attraction for overseas filmmakers. In his opinion, working together will be beneficial for everyone, both culturally and economically.(news from the shanghailist)