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Hooray for Chollywood? Chinese Cinema Takes on the World

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Last month, the Film Bureau of China launched, its first English-language website dedicated to promoting domestically produced films to a world audience. The portal offers news, celebrity photos and even informational pages on the major studios in mainland China. From initial appearances, the site has a ways to go: a number of links are broken, and among the top search terms “Confucious” is spelled incorrectly. The look and feel of the site somewhat resembles the pages of the news satire site The Onion when it was supposedly taken over by a Chinese conglomerate. But laugh at your own risk; this website is a shot across the bow of the status quo of global film distribution, the Chinese film industry’s way of saying to Hollywood “It’s on!”

A report in the UK Guardian reads between the lines:

The site suggests a vibrant film industry capable of competing with the best Hollywood can produce… The director of the country’s Bureau of Film Administration, Tong Gang, told the Independent that China was making “considerable progress” in opening up its film industry. He said that success stories born of the new approach included Bodyguards and Assassins, a mainland Chinese-Hong Kong co-production which is up for 18 prizes at the Hong Kong Film Awards on April 18, and John Woo’s Red Cliff, a China-US production which took $250m worldwide and was crowned Asia’s box office champion at last week’s Asian Film Awards.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Thanks to a massive state-sponsored promotional campaign meant to make a statement on the country’s robust film industry, the 2009 production Founding of a Republic broke the all-time box office record for a Chinese film — only to have its feat overshadowed by Avatar’s unprecedented success in China months later. Not even a state-coordinated attempt to push the film out of theaters could stop it.

But the current dominance of Hollywood in China may very well be short-lived. Asia analyst Francisco Sisci, writing in the Asia Times, does the math:

The market grew by almost 44% last year, and about 30% in 2008. Last year, it was worth US$908 million – about a tenth of the $9.79 billion of US revenues in the previous year. At the current rate, the Chinese film market will outgrow the American market in five to ten years.

Sisci goes on to say that the tide will turn to the point that it will be Chinese films flooding into American cineplexes. This may even happen well before China becomes economically dominant over the U.S.: “While we have been waiting for years for the economic overtaking, which will still take a generation to come, the transformation of Hollywood into Chollywood could take only five years.” The result, Sisci warns, is a clash of cultures to a magnitude not seen since Western colonialism descended on China in the 19th century. Sisci extols the need for strengthening channels of understanding the “superficiality and carelessness in dealing with China and in China’s dealing with the Western world,” as is prevalent in popular media and culture.

We at dGenerate like to believe that we offer such a channel for rich understanding of important issues related to China. We do this by distributing films that offer not superficial entertainment or government-approved messages, but an independent vision of reality that’s relevant both to China and to the world. In other words, the films you don’t learn about on


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