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August 23, 2009

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Film leader hits pirates, backs China's growth

AS former US President Bill Clinton's Secretary for Agriculture, Dan Glickman was a spokesman for a distinctly unglamorous industry. This changed in 2004 when he became head of the Motion Picture Association of America. But stars and red carpets aside, he has retained a politician's grasp of the hard issues making the industry possible and visited Shanghai's Fudan University recently to talk about the economic and diplomatic impact of films in a globalizing world.

As an agricultural minister during China's accession to the WTO, Glickman once said that China "is the most important thing agriculturally in the world.?As a movie industry mogul, China again looms large on his agenda as a new international marketQ: How will the movie industry cope with the recession?

A: In the United States, box-office takings increased even as we have entered a recession. Especially in hard times, people need to escape and forget the problems in their lives. The movie business is good to be in because people always need to be entertained ?no matter what their social class, income or culture.

Q: How can the poorest members of Chinese society enjoy Hollywood films?

A: In the US, movie tickets in comparison to income levels and other forms of entertainment are relatively inexpensive. I realize in China this may not be the case, and we are working on more affordable, legitimate DVDs in China.

The cheap, pirated DVDs available here are not a good solution because they hurt China's native creative industries much more than they hurt us. They're cheap because the content is stolen.

Q: How can China develop an international level film industry?

A: China's film industry is developing extraordinarily fast ?25 percent box-office growth each year for the past five years ?and a tripling of the number of cinema screens.

China needs to develop its home grown films and movie markets. But for this to happen it needs to let more foreign films in, as well as export more Chinese films abroad. This is good to build up international Chinese stars, and because the creative process is all about sharing ideas.

Q: Do blockbuster Chinese films abroad, like "Flying Daggers?or "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,?really give American audiences a good understanding of China?

A: Kungfu movies show the art of Chinese film making, and the beauty of the culture. The overall effect is positive. Recently we hosted a Chinese Film Festival in the US, and we screened 13 films to high-level US audiences. They included films about everyday Chinese life, such as "Hutong Days.?I think American audiences want more real life stories from China, but whatever the form of the film the key to its popularity is a good story.


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