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Let's make a movie together

By Li Likui and Sun Li  (China Daily)

09:59, July 02, 2012

A scene from Bodyguards and Assassins, a film co-produced by movie makers from Hong Kong and the mainland. (China Daily)

Co-productions have gone mainstream, uplifting a sagging Hong Kong film industry and teaching new tricks to filmmakers across the border.

Waves of Hong Kong-mainland film projects have held a firm grasp on audiences' attention in different phases of past decades. With more film industry professionals from Hong Kong crossing the border recently, it seems co-productions have reached a golden age.

Zhao Weifang, a film scholar at the Chinese National Academy of Arts, points out the collaboration between Hong Kong filmmakers and their mainland counterparts shone as early as the early 1980s.

Director Li Han-hsiang, one of the most important figures in Hong Kong cinema, went to Beijing's Forbidden City to shoot Burning of Imperial Palace (1982) and Reign behind the Curtain (1983).

Both classic palace intrigues gained full support by mainland collaborators and garnered critical and commercial success at that time, inspiring a few other Hong Kong auteurs' inaugural foray into the mainland market, Zhao says, adding there were more than 30 co-produced films in the 1980s.

In the 1990s, there was a surge in co-productions as such collaborative projects were high on the agenda of some mainland studios, which believed co-produced films tend to have good box office performances, Zhao says.

But the real proliferation of such co-productions occurred after the signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement in 2003, an important trade agreement that gives Hong Kong's firms preferential terms in trade in goods and services, he says.

Items in the deal related to film industry suggest movies co-produced by Hong Kong and the mainland can be distributed on the mainland as Chinese pictures. It is also specified that the number of mainland actors should be at least one-third of the cast in any particular co-produced movies.

"The preliminary stage of co-produced films' outpouring may have resulted from Hong Kong filmmakers' intention to enrich the subject and content of Hong Kong movies," says Wei Haijun, a famous film critic specializing in Hong Kong films.

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