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Art films win acclaim, bomb at box office [Video]


09:41, January 16, 2013

While China's movie market in 2012 saw a bombardment of blockbusters both from home and abroad, it also witnessed an explosion of small budget films focused on realistic themes. These independent films are an important supplement to mainstream commercial films and are part of cultural memory.

While some say they represent the conscience of Chinese films, most of them are box office disasters.

2012 could be hailed as a harvest year for Chinese films, not only in terms of quantity or total revenue, but in terms of the appearance of dozens of good quality art films. Upholding a realistic point of view, they reflect humanistic care for those who struggle in real life. And it helps that these films won acclaim at international film festivals.

"Fengshui" was acclaimed by both film critics and the media. Some say it was as good as the Iranian film "A Seperation."

"Full Circle" was called "one of the three most loved films by the jury" at the 25th Tokyo Film Festival.

"Detective Hunter Zhang" or "Beijing Blues" was adapted from stories of a police officer in Beijing. The film won the best director award at 15th Shanghai Film Awards and the best film award at the 49th Taiwan Golden Horse Film Festival.

"People Mountain People Sea" is based on a true murder case. The film won a silver lion at the 68th Venice Film Festival.

However, when these films entered the market, not one escaped their fate as a box office disaster.

Reporter: "Good films don't have good box office return. This is the problem that Chinese movies are in urgent need to cope with. Of course, art films never target at commercial value. However, without it they'll find it hard to sustain. So the question is how far is there from good reputation and award to practical box office return?"

There are different rules of the game for commercial films and art films. But there may be no room for small budget art films when both types are put in the same market.

Xu Yuan, deputy managing editor of, said, "I think it's time for our film industry and our film administration to think about establishing a protection system for art films as other countries have done. For example, in France, if a cinema only screens art films, it can enjoy a tax exemption. Or some NGOs provide subsidies. The Chinese film market has already grown very big. I don't think it would be that hard to carry out similar polices."

At present in Beijing, a pioneering cinema already screens only art films. And it has received a warm welcome by movie fans.

On one hand, art films usually don't have budgets and experience in marketing. On the other, major cinema goers in China are between 20 to 30 years of age, and most of them are mainstream of commercial film consumers.

Of course, art film makers are making their own efforts, such as casting stars or inviting celebrities to help in promotion. But the development of art films calls for the efforts of the whole society.

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