May 23 - This year's Cannes Film Festival could prove to become a turning point for China's role in the global film market, with a heightened emphasis on co-productions designed to appeal to Chinese moviegoers. Matt Cowan reports.
One of the more note-worthy storylines of this year's Cannes Film Festival is the emergence of China as a more formidable presence. Evident in the films being shown, those being sold and the ideas touted for future development - China is playing a much more prominent role. Bruno Wu heads up a successful media empire in China. He's flown into Cannes from Beijing for a series of meetings, to promote his fledgling film operation as well a bold new infrastructure project called Chinawood. SOUNDBITE: Bruno Wu, Seven Stars Global Entertainment Chairman, saying (English) "The Chinese film market is coming up very strongly. This year will be the second largest film market in the world. 2015, the Chinese film market will reach approximately five billion dollars and with Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan the whole East Asia market will reach 10 billion dollars. That's going to be the size of North America, U.S. and Canada combined." Wu's Seven Stars Film Studios has just announced that it's bankrolling a remake of John Woo's 1989 breakthrough hit The Killer. The 30 million dollar English language version of the film is set to be shot in Toronto, but the female lead will be played by Chinese actress Sarah Yan Li. SOUNDBITE: Bruno Wu, Seven Stars Global Entertainment Chairman, saying (English) "The rule in China is that if you're shooting a co-production then one of the lead roles needs to be Chinese if its a co-production." China limits the number of foreign films that can be shown in its cinemas. The quota has recently been raised from 20 percent to 34 percent, but Hollywood productions which are co-produced with a Chinese partner - such as the 2010 remake of the Karate Kid - face fewer restrictions. Liz Shackleton, contributing editor at Screen International, says there's more to this than simple economics. SOUNDBITE: Liz Shackleton, Screen International Contributing Editor saying (English) "The Chinese government is very keen to export China's soft power so they're really supporting the companies in what they hope will be a genuine two way exchange of culture. They're ready to absorb more American and other foreign films in China but they also want to see Chinese films going out into the world." Wang Zhonglei is one of China's most successful movie producers. In Cannes to promote Painted Skin 2 and Chinese Zodiac, he says he has concerns over the new emphasis on big international co-productions. SOUNDBITE: Wang Zhonglei , Movie Producer, saying (Mandarin) "The Chinese market will certainly become one of the largest in the world, but it still needs several more years of hard work to match the North American level. Of course as I'm Chinese, I hope strong, local films will always get a share in this market no matter how big it becomes." With the Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group poised to become the world's largest theatre group following the 2.6 billion dollar acquisition of AMC, and more blockbusters looking to China for funding, the world's most populous nation does seem destined to exert much greater influence over Hollywood. Matt Cowan, Reuters