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China's homegrown hit films getting lost overseas

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm •  Published: March 19, 2013

Doris Pfardrescher, president of distributor Well Go USA, said the kinds of movies that are popular in China today — romances, comedies and fantasy flicks — don't necessarily appeal to audiences in other countries.

"For the U.S. market, what primarily does well are your martial arts action films. ... Usually they have simplified stories. It's all about visual effect. They're just easier to consume as far as with the fanboys," she said, adding that China is making fewer and fewer such movies.

"The films that are being made now, the Chinese films, are these romantic comedies that just don't do well for us."

"Lost in Thailand" follows two businessmen who encounter a tourist while searching for their boss. While it has been applauded for depicting modern middle-class life in China, critics say its humor doesn't appeal outside China.

In an interview, director Xu Zheng said, "I didn't even think of the foreign market when I was making the film, because the budget was limited." Had he known it would have been released in other countries, "I might have changed some things in my script."

China's censorship system has also been blamed for limiting the kinds of films made, as filmmakers stay away from edgy subjects like in contemporary thrillers in favor of safer storylines.

Film distributors said there are also subtle differences in storytelling, especially with historical and cultural touchstones that differ among audiences.

"There are a lot of things you need to explain and tell to the Western audience (that) would be considered boring" to a Chinese audience, said Jeffrey Chan, CEO of Hong Kong-based Distribution Workshop.

Action movies aside, "you need social, historical, cultural background. Then the way you tell it to a Chinese audience and the way you tell it to a non-Chinese audience will be very different," Chan said.

Pfardrescher added that for "a lot of Chinese films that I see there is this assumption that Americans know maybe the history or the political humor or something, but unfortunately we don't. We don't understand. We don't know. So it doesn't translate.

"The only way to do that is to make a lot longer movie to explain it all, but it would be very boring for Chinese audiences."



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