China’s film industry has been wowed by the success of Wolf Warrior 2, its first domestically-made blockbuster that has reached the global top 100 most successful films.
The military/action movie (think Chinese Rambo/Die Hard hero) has tapped into and/or has boosted a patriotic vein amongst Chinese cinema goers, and has generated 5+ billion yuan in box office sales (A$960m) since its 28 July launch.
This patriotism is part of a wider ‘soul-searching’ in China, given the momentous societal changes underway, from famine to feast but with inequality and uncertainty along the way. (see my China psyche article)
Australia’s film industry can tap into this hunger for more meaning in life & society, with hints of this hunger ranging from;
- the success of heart-warming films such as Dangal (named “Lets wrestle Dad” in China) and Paths of the Soul (about a Tibetan pilgrimage which one would have thought was a politically sensitive ‘no-no’ in China -being a film about religion and about Tibet)
- significant Chinese social media commentary about the lack of compassion in Chinese society (especially after several high profile cases of pedestrians being hit by vehicles with passers-by not helping)
- significant angst about a lack of business ethics which has resulted in food, financial and pollution scandals
- the success of patriotic movies such as Wolf Warrior (with a risk that movies in this genre can lead to more jingoistic, rather than patriotic, sentiments)
- and the significant revival of religion in China. (see http://www.ian-johnson.com/books/the-souls-of-china)
Given the current limited budgets in Australia’s film industry, the making of big budget blockbusters are not feasible.
But soul-searching, heart-warming films play into Australia’s cultural, creative (and monetary…or lack of) strengths!
The opportunity and challenge for Australian producers seeking to target the massive Chinese box office, is to create stories that resonates with Chinese soul-searching yet mindful of government censorship.
We hope to discuss some of these ideas at the Aus-China Film Investment conference 4 Sept, Sydney, sponsored by HLB Mann Judd.
Recent Chinese capital restrictions and films
Meanwhile, there has been much discussion, especially in the investment industry, about the recent release of a formal list of ‘banned’, ‘restricted’ or ‘encouraged’ overseas investments made by Chinese businesses.
The list restricts investments in ‘cinema & entertainment’ but encourages investment in ‘culture’.
My sources say investment will be restricted in overseas film studios, cinema chains, entertainment theme parks and sporting clubs for example, but investment will be encouraged in overseas made films (especially under a co-production) subject to existing Chinese censorship themes. Details to come as the list is further analysed by the investment industry.