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Berlinale 2022 – EFM

Industry Report: Europe and the Rest of the World

The EFM explores what to expect from Sino-European collaboration


BERLINALE 2022: On 15 February, the EFM’s traditional event focusing on the Chinese market explored the future prospects for interaction with this ever-expanding industry

The EFM explores what to expect from Sino-European collaboration
A moment during the panel

Over the past two years, the Chinese film industry has recovered at a faster pace than that of the rest of the world. Although it has still not attained its pre-pandemic heights, it has surpassed the USA and become the world's largest market. An event held at the Berlinale’s European Film Market on 15 February, in cooperation with Bridging the Dragon, tried to explore the current situation and offer the international participants some idea of what may lie ahead.

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Zhang Fan, China manager of Bridging the Dragon, described how recent events, such as COVID-19, travel limitations, geopolitical tensions and a lack of big US blockbusters, have increasingly disconnected China from the rest of the world. During the last season, domestic films accounted for as much as 85% of local box-office takings. At the same time, there has been a sharp fall in the share of imported films. Only 67 foreign titles were released in 2021, accounting for only 15% of the total box office.

The numbers of international co-productions have also been at their lowest point for many years, as described by Liu Chun, general manager of the China Film Coproduction Corporation (CFCC). Nevertheless, he predicted that international collaboration with China would flourish again after the pandemic has been resolved and the world has reopened again. The new Five-year Plan drafted by the Chinese central authority calls explicitly for an enhancement of the international exchange of artistic and technical expertise, the promotion of quality Chinese films in the main international markets (also through the establishment of Chinese booths at major film festivals) and the fostering of co-productions.

Renowned Chinese producer Wang Donghui, who, during his career, has been successful in many different genres, pointed out that the current climate has actually pushed for an improvement in the quality of local productions, both from a technical and a narrative point of view. It has also brought some new opportunities for Sino-European collaboration, one of them being the exploitation of remakes. Because there is a general shortage of content in Mainland China, remakes seem to provide a quicker route into production. Many of the current remakes have come from other Asian countries, as their aesthetics are already closer to Chinese tastes. This is the case for comedies such as Too Cool To Kill, a remake of the 2008 Japanese hit The Magic Hour, which became the second-highest-grossing film (taking $217 million) of the last Spring Festival. However, more and more attention has also been paid to European titles that manage to express universal emotions and family values common to us all.

Another increasingly viable possibility for international collaboration is animation. Three of the seven films released during this year's Spring Festival were animated. Because of the special nature of animation, where the bulk of the production workload can also be done online, collaboration with foreign partners is easier. Wang Donghui mentioned how surprised he was to be approached with more and more projects based on virtual characters. A CGI-generated movie may have features that are not clearly Asian or Western, and may easily be dubbed into any language.

In conclusion, all speakers confirmed that the present moment still holds some uncertainty, but further down the line, with the easing of policies and the restart of physical exchanges, there will still be important opportunities for collaboration between the European and Chinese film markets.

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