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Online Platforms Open Up Alternative Film Content to Chinese Audiences

In a recent article for The Guardian, Nicola Davidson reports on a recent deal that will allow users of Chinese video browser youku to access over two-hundred 20th Century Fox titles. Use of user-driven sites like youku and tudou as streaming platforms has allowed American film giants an alternate distribution strategy in China and also granted Chinese netizens access to alternative or underground entertainment. Davidson reports:

In a country where what’s shown on screen is guarded by the government, online video websites such as Youku and Tudou are revolutionising the way people view film and television. In 2010, the number of Chinese watching video online was 284 million. By the end of 2012 the figure could pass 445m, according to CMM Intelligence, a Beijing-based market research firm.

In addition to providing a channel to an enormous Chinese audience, online distribution is also proving key for artistic ventures that would otherwise remain underground and largely unseen.

…Online platforms are opening up opportunities for filmmakers that cinematic release would stifle. “Our biggest priority is to have as many people as possible watch our films”, says Xiao Yang, one half of film-making duo the Chopsticks Brothers, whose debut short film Old Boys has been watched by 42 million people. “If Old Boys had only been shown through traditional channels, both budget constraints and the plot would have affected the number of people who saw it. On the internet it came alive.” For film-makers wanting to release in theatres, there are substantial censorship considerations. Last month the state council of legislative affairs drafted three new rules to add to the list of ten cinematic no-nos – which are designed to “promote the prosperity and development of the film industry and enrich the cultural life of the people” – banning the promotion of drug use, hurting people’s religious feelings and “playing up” horror, among others. “We wanted to make a film that might have challenged censors, and if that was the case we were shutting ourselves off from television and cinema” says Melanie Ansley, producer of Red Light Revolution, a Beijing-based comedy about a cabbie who opens a sex shop – content too racy to pass China’s cinema censors. After release on Tudou last week, the Chinese-language film has had over 1.2 million views. “I think the internet offers a place for stuff that takes a little more risk,” says Ansley. “Some of the comments from viewers of our film say ‘how did this get past the censors? I can’t believe that I’m watching this, that this is up on Tudou’.


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