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More than a feeling

(Global Times)

08:50, May 30, 2013

The 66th Cannes Film Festival just wrapped up with its spotlight on the winners. And as usual at the world's top international film event, much of the buzz generated from off the red carpet.

One noteworthy development was that Critics' Week welcomed its first Chinese jury member Luo Jin, known in China as Magasa, to join the panel in selecting its France 4 Visionary Award.

Magasa is one of a group of film critics who gained a following through the Internet. About a decade ago, online film critics were becoming popular on different online forums. A few years later, they created their own base: Moviegoer ( and Cinephilia (

These sites are now well established in the industry. So much so that since the film festival in Berlin last year, Cinephilia has participated in the three biggest festivals as an independent media organization.

From amateurs to experts

It was largely within an underdeveloped market and culture of imitation that this generation of film lovers emerged in China. Then the Internet and new media opened a door for these people to express their feelings about films.

With the Internet, everyone can make a comment on websites like IMDB (Internet Movie Database) or its Chinese alternative Mtime. What made Magasa and his fellows a bit different is that they were more like researchers, willing to spend time learning everything like film history or film theory.

These days, they not only write about films but also discuss how to write film reviews and how to obtain the skills that can help others write reviews.

Moreover, they have also been actively involved in the film industry, engaging in interviews, translation, publishing books as well as producing their podcast programs. Some of them have begun to write scripts.

In 2006, Zhu Xubin and several online film critic friends founded as an encyclopedia for films. At the end of 2009, Cinepedia was forced to shut down for three months due to legal issues regarding its domain name. Zhu was in Denmark at the time, so he secured a server there and started a new website called, borrowing the term from Susan Suntag, which describes people who are obsessed with cinema.

"It was interesting that came as a product to overcome the domestic block for websites," said Zhu. On the first day of 2010, Cinephilia officially got online.

Cinephilia was initially seen as serving a niche group. Now, according to Zhu, visitors to the site have increased from 180,000 in 2010 to 2 million last year with volunteers from the US, UK and France supporting its maintenance.

Members are mostly bilingual, and able to translate French, German, Japanese, Korean and so on. Many of them also have solid academic backgrounds. Li Yang, who has a PhD in film studies at Université Charles de Gaulle-Lille 3, is one of the writers of the recently published What We Talk about When We Talk, a book that also includes articles by Magasa and another two online film critics Yun Zhong and KTV (both pennames).

The website has also attracted attention from academia and film directors. Zhang Xianmin, professor at the Beijing Film Academy, and Shi Chuan, professor at Shanghai University, for example, are both registered members and update their writings on Cinephilia once in a while.

Various film reviews

Independent film critic Gao Yuanzhi, told the Global Times that compared to academic articles that usually pay more attention to industrialization or in-depth films studies that lean toward social and cultural criticism, online film critics have a more interesting point of view and stronger personal style.

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