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August 8, 2020

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Humanity is still valued for successful movies

Commercial filmmaking has developed rapidly over the past decade. However, film professionals say distinctive artistic expression and in-depth exploration of humanity are still important for a successful movie.

At a forum of the recent 23rd Shanghai International Film Festival, veteran filmmakers and screenwriters shared their experiences in genre development.

It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that commercial movies appeared in the Chinese mainland film market.

Li Shaohong, a fifth-generation Chinese director, said she studied how to make art films in film school.

“When I was told to shoot a thriller commercial film ‘The Case of the Silver Snake’ in 1987, I couldn’t help crying,” Li recalled. “I had no idea what a commercial film should be like.”

While shooting, she blended as many different elements she could think of to make the movie commercial, including lighting, sound effects, costumes, makeup, props and music. The film made its money back, although Li was asked to eliminate several of the horror scenes in the final release.

“I notice that many commercial movies made around the world also artistically express viewpoints of humanity and individuality,” Li said.

She was echoed by celebrated writer Quan Yongxian, who said the boundaries of film genres are beginning to blur. Many films, such as the Chinese comedy “Design of Death” and the South Korean crime thriller “Memories of Murder,” feature unique artistic expression.

Quan, whose script credits include “The Wolf” and “The Brink,” is now writing the script for director Zhang Yimou’s new spy thriller “Impasse.”

“I am eager to depict the complexity of humanity and the changes of human relations under extreme conditions,” Quan said. “I never think of following any patterns or rules of the spy film genre. The most important thing for me is to tell a good human story.”

He added that good filmmakers should have deep emotions and sympathy for people in order to communicate with the characters. Filmmakers, he thinks, should also read books and enrich their social and life experiences.

The success of “The Wandering Earth” aroused great interest in the sci-fi genre. However, award-winning sci-fi novelist Chen Qiufan doesn’t think sci-fi is an independent genre.

“It usually blends the elements of romance, disaster and comedy,” said Chen. “A sci-fi scriptwriter should have superb logical thinking and an open mind to portray a colorful world. He also needs to understand human beings and their delicate emotions. Otherwise, his work will be superficial and monotonous.”

Director Li Xiaofeng noted that many art films combine the elements of crime and suspense, inspiring people to reflect on humanity and social issues. In his eyes, a director’s imagination should not be limited by the genre.

The 23rd Shanghai International Film Festival closed on August 2. Its film forums gathered film professionals and experts to exchange their ideas on the recovery of Chinese cinema.

Tickets for the festival’s Panorama almost sold out within two hours.

A total of 1,146 film screenings took place during the festival, attracting more than 140,000 viewers. More than half of those who watch are between the ages of 20 and 29.

Additionally, 147 outdoor screenings were held for locals at major shopping malls and various communities.

Songjiang and Pudong districts announced new film policies and projects to help develop Shanghai into a global film and television production center.

Filmmakers in Shanghai will receive funding and service support, and special subsidies will be offered to encourage more film productions in the city.


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