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March 20, 2011

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A cinematic search for Shangri-La

FOLLOWING "Return to Shangri-La," the first film in his "Shangri-La trilogy," Chinese filmmaker Guo Qing will begin shooting the second part "L'amour au Shangri-La" in September.

Born in Shanghai, the 40-something documentary and feature film director divides his time between his home city and Paris.

"L'amour au Shangri-La" deals with humanity against the background of the First Indochina War. The story is about a French soldier who falls in love with a Chinese girl with royal ancestry.

The film will boast a strong combination of Chinese and French culture, with Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, Hong Kong star Tony Leung Ka-fai and French actors Nicolas Duvauchelle and Alain Delon among the cast.

Guo explains his "Shangri-La complex" and his expectations for Chinese cinema to Shanghai Daily.

Q: You are known as a documentary filmmaker. What made you decide to make a foray into feature films?

A: There is not a conflict between documentary film and feature film. Actually, it's more difficult to make documentary films. Most feature films are shot based on scripts, but documentary films can only follow a story summary. For the other parts, you need to capture things as they happen.

Q: Why do you use Shangri-La as the backdrop of your feature films?

A: Ever since the release of "Lost Horizon," a novel written by James Hilton, Shangri-La has been alluring people from all over the world. People have been seeking this place for centuries. They want to know the exact location of the wonderland that James described. At the beginning of the century, the authorities confirmed that Shangri-La is in Diqing in Yunnan. The argument over its location has ceased, but its place in people's hearts never fades.

I found the mystical topic of Shangri-La by chance and fell in love with it after detailed observation and understanding of the place and its culture.

Q: What do you think of the international influence of today's Chinese cinema?

A: Chinese movies receive awards at international film festivals year by year. Some of the awarded films have good sales performance in foreign countries, but some have no buyers abroad, and worse still, few domestic theaters are willing to arrange the showing of these films. Another problem is that some popular domestic films don't sell well abroad. I am also a little confused about the reason behind this.

Q: Despite the boom in Chinese cinema, the domestic film market is still unbalanced and profit-oriented. Are you confident in the box office performance of your movies?

A: The boom in Chinese cinema is an illusion because they chase the market and profit, it's somewhat of an unbalanced boom. There are all kinds of audience demands in foreign countries, so all kinds of films appear in the market. But many theaters in China only show movies with big budgets and famous actors. There's no strict line separating arthouse movies and commercial ones in foreign countries. But there's a strange phenomena in China that all films with no commercial value are labeled as art films. But if the so-called art movies sell well one day, then will they still be "art movies" or "commercial works?"


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