A Quest of Discovery That Must Never End: Reflections on the China Industry Forum (22nd September 2016)
Film Feature by Dean Pettipher
“Life is finite, while knowledge is infinite.” These were words declared and recorded in writing by the Chinese philosopher of more ancient times, Zhuang Zhou. Of all the proverbs and sayings of world-renowned wisdom, the aforementioned notion, without a doubt, best encapsulated the most immediate sentiment of this year’s China Industry Forum, which took place on what has come to be formally known on the Raindance Film Festival calendar as China Day, a date in the diary that ultimately and proudly testifies to the boundless depths of potential for success and prosperity linked to the rapidly and positively accelerating Sino-British relations in the modern age, most notably, on this occasion, concerning the film industries of both nations.
The event opened with an introduction by the Minister Counsellor for Culture from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Mr. Xiang Xiaowei. The VIP-led opening was followed by a presentation from the Chief Editor of www.chinafilm.com . The talk was principally about the China Film Group Corporation, as well as co-production and co-distribution between Chinese and British film companies. Next came presentations from representatives of companies that included Tiangong United Pictures, a media production and distribution organization known for championing 3D field shooting technology in film. At the forefront of their pleasant and informal presentation, paced perfectly with frequent invitations for the audience to ask questions and share thoughts, were insights into 3D and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies. Not a minute was wasted as the proceedings swiftly flew into the Raindance China Signing Ceremony, which featured the formal signing of various agreements aimed at strengthening China-British film relations by opening numerous doors to varied and fruitful opportunities. With the added presence of Mr. Elliot Grove, the Founder of the Raindance Film Festival, to an already unsung star-studded ensemble, the significance of the ceremony came to rival that of the co-production treaty signed in April 2014. That particular treaty, which was negotiated for the UK by the British Film Institute (BFI), through a process that involved China’s Film Bureau, the China Film Co-Production Corporation, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) along with UK Trade and Investment in Beijing, made it possible for qualifying British and Chinese co-productions to enjoy national benefits that included financial support and an easier pathway to the crucial destination that the film industry depends upon for its very existence, aside from the love of great art and storytelling – audiences. Finally, the forum concluded with an ‘Open Floor’ session; budding filmmakers were given an opportunity put themselves in the spotlight and see what happened next.
Even if, on this occasion, only one movie artist, a young aspiring actress, took up the opportunity to share a fairly vague but nonetheless intriguing speech about what she was up to at present in the pursuit of her dreams, the scent of humble appreciation remained defiant in the air, since here was the clearest example of key figures behind the event putting their values into practice. That is to say, there was evidently a sincere belief that anyone who was both brave and passionate enough, no matter what their background, deserved a chance to be given a platform and have their voice heard, hopefully as a stepping stone on their journey towards making a living in the movie business. Thus, the often all too dominant fear that the film business is made up entirely of an elite club that welcomes only those either wealthy enough to pay the entrance fee or fortunate enough to essentially be born into it, as if it was a royal family, was at least in that moment, with the beautiful girl stood upon the stage in front of a handful of amateur directors, production assistants and journalists, to name but a few fellow dreamers, defiantly tackled. That self-belief and undying faith in one’s abilities, required to survive and still take pleasure out of such a competitive field, proved that day to be a truly universal phenomenon.
By the end of the forum, there was plenty to be excited about and even more luscious desert for thought to be explored further. For instance, as China and the UK continue to seek out ways in which to share their expertise and opportunities with each other, what impact will such developments have on their respective film industries? What impact will such actions have on the broader political platforms beyond the movies? While Hollywood and the UK’s equivalent, (whatever that is), find themselves feeling increasingly more welcomed by the Chinese box office, could Chinese movies also establish a firm and more prominent position within the mainstream of Western cinema? With one of the major assertions of the forum being that China will always give freedom to the artist, will the upcoming big-budget picture, The Great Wall (2016), due for release in the UK in February 2017, deliver on such a pledge and still manage to live up to the enormous artistic, political and financial expectations? What does the future hold for truly 3D films? That is to say, those films that are shot in 3D, as opposed to those films that are converted from 2D format – the so-called real 3D movie. What does the future hold for VR films, which, incidentally, were noted during the forum as having a long way to go before they even reach the present state of 3D cinema in fulfilling the purposes of education and entertainment? Was the next Yimou Zhang, the next Ziyi Zhang, or the next Roger Ebert sat in the Vue Piccadilly cinema screen that day? Only time, patience and hard work will tell. In the meantime, China Day 2016 was granted a mighty send-off with a private boat party that gracefully drifted along the River Thames into an elegant sunset and then a sparkling night lit up by the Shard and its mistresses. Unfortunately, before one got too excited, he or she would only be very disappointed to learn that the celebrations on the water were invitation only. However, even in mourning, after missing out on the bountiful champagne and friends reception, the poignant music and the lively dances, one received some much-needed optimistic relief for the future of both one’s self and Sino-British relations, courtesy of viewing the day’s events in light of the flowing Chinese proverb – “If you always give, you will always have.”