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China Film Pavilion in Cannes Focuses on Future Partnerships

May 16, 20246 Mins Read

China officially arrives back at Cannes this year intent on showcasing its hits, while promoting the opportunities for international collaborations the country’s film industry leaders are increasingly keen to explore.

There are more than 60 film companies from the nation involved at the China Film Pavilion — situated at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès and organized by the China Film Co-Production Corporation (CFCC) under the guidance of the China Film Administration — and visitors can learn all about more than 180 Chinese films.

“We hope to promote exchanges and cooperation between Chinese and foreign film industries through the China Film Pavilion and help Chinese films go global,” a CFCC spokesperson says. “Through the pavilion and film as a medium, mutual understanding between Chinese and foreign filmmakers can be deepened to further foster communication and cooperation for mutual development. The China Film Pavilion will continue to explore a broader platform for Chinese and foreign film exchange.”

The biggest surprise of the year so far in the China film sector has been the success of the comedy phenomenon Yolo, directed by and starring comedian-turned-filmmaker Jia Ling, with the backing of such heavyweights as China Film Co and Alibaba Pictures.

The source material is the hit 2014 Japanese sports drama 100 Yen Love, but Jia opts more for a more comedic approach in her tale of a single woman who takes up boxing as she looks to turn her life around — and undergoes a complete physical transformation in the process. The filmmaker, who first found fame as one of China’s most popular stand-up comedians, lost around 110 pounds through the production of the film, and it’s become the biggest hit of 2024 with around $500 million in revenue.

According to the CFCC, 971 films were produced nationwide in China in 2023, among them 792 feature films. The mainland’s box office reached RMB55 billion ($7.7 billion) last year, with admissions of 1.3 billion, confirming its position as the world’s second-largest film market.

The positives have so far continued in 2024, with the market showing “consistent strong momentum, influenced by various factors such as quality content, continuous market expansion, and robust audience support,” says the CFCC representative.

This positive news is something the CFCC will be heavily promoting at the pavilion in Cannes. “The flourishing Chinese market has sparked the interest of international filmmakers,” the rep says. “At the booth of the China Film Pavilion, booklets on the exhibited Chinese films and overviews of Chinese-foreign film co-production have attracted many visitors, while the themed promotional videos showcasing the latest performance of the Chinese film industry on the large screen have also captivated numerous visitors.”

There have been new box office records set across the Lunar New Year. Through May  5, China’s box office had collected $2.8 billion — which accounts for 35 percent of global revenue.

Among this year’s attractions at the China Pavilion is a panel discussion entitled How China’s Film Industry Cooperates With the International Community, aimed at “envisioning new directions and futures for international film cooperation.” Attendees include Mao Yu, executive deputy director-general of the China Film Administration (CFA); actor and vice-chairman of the CFA Huang Bo; and Chinese American pop star Fei Xiang, star of the fantasy-actioner Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms, directed by blockbuster filmmaker Wuershan.

An example of the kind of cooperation promoted by the pavilion is Chinese-French co-production Kangxi and Louis XIV, a documentary that looks at the relationship that developed between the Chinese emperor and the French king from the late 1600s, and the pavilion has also showcased the Adixia Xiareheman and Jun Zhou-directed feature Fade Away Pastoral, a co-production with Kazakhstan that focuses on the life — and various internal conflicts — of the nomadic Kazakh community that lives in the mountainous Xinjiang province in northwest China.

Other seminars being hosted across the course of the festival include the China Film Foundation’s China’s New Talents Going Global Program, Dialogue: Infinite Possibilities of Films, The Pathway From Short Film to Feature Film and a panel discussion about the “voice and perseverance of female filmmakers.”

In terms of recent releases being showcased, China will be highlighting Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms, which has collected an estimated $370 million globally. Taken from the pages of an iconic 16th-century novel, the film was produced by Tencent Pictures, which primarily focuses on taking stories from book to screen. The CGI-loaded epic was released in multiple international markets in September, including North America and the United Kingdom, before landing on Netflix.

Another culture-themed production on display is the animated hit Chang’an, directed by Xie Junwei and Zou Jing and focused specifically on the lives of two Tang Dynasty (618 to 907) poets. Produced by the Beijing-based Light Chaser Animation Studios and picked up for distribution by Niu Vision Media, the film was credited with being behind a surge in interest in Tang-era poetry upon release in China — where it collected more than $250 million.

China has also been keen to promote films that follow more contemporary domestic narrative arcs, and to that end, visitors to the pavilion can check out the winner of the top prize at the recent Beijing International Film Festival: the creatively titled comedic drama Gold or Shit, directed by Fei Long, which follows the story of a young man who tries to make a film in his hometown in rural China.

There are also restored films on display, including 1937’s Street Angel, set among the slums of Shanghai, and considered a classic of China’s “left-wing” film movement of the period.

“We are eager to share all these wonderful films with the audiences worldwide,” says the CFCC representative. “At the booth, we have fully experienced the expectations of foreign buyers for Chinese films, and feel their eagerness to cooperate with Chinese filmmakers. This pavilion also bridges us with our overseas counterparts and enables us to embrace more business and cooperation opportunities.”

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