Local Chinese films maintain dominance over imports

Asia / Pacific Roundabout

China’s box office continued to be dominated by local productions in June and July, traditionally regarded as the country’s “summer blockbuster season,” which in recent years has often been commanded by Hollywood imports. At press time, five of the ten top grossers were locally produced movies, with the number-one spot being occupied by crime action thriller Cold War 2, which had earned a staggering $85.7 million since its release on July 8. Animated feature Big Fish & Begonia held on to second place with total accumulated earnings of $69 million after its second week. Teenage romantic drama Never Gone maintained third place, having raked in slightly over $46 million since opening on July 15.With all other spots also being snatched up by either Chinese productions or co-productions, the only two Hollywood entries making the list were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows at sixth place and action comedy Now You See Me 2, which had to settle for eighth spot.

“Independence” Accusations May Sink Chinese Film

Although Taiwanese film star Leon Dai has recently strongly rejected accusations by Chinese Internet users he was advocating his native Taiwan’s formal independence from the People’s Republic, the controversy may lead to the reshooting—or possibly complete scrapping—of his latest movie, Mainland-produced No Other Love (Mei You Bie De Ai). The People’s Republic officially regards Taiwan as a “rebel province” and has always refused to recognize it as an autonomous nation, rendering any “independence talk” an extremely sensitive issue.

Malicious comments that Dai allegedly was an “independence advocate” for Taiwan began to first appear in April after Chinese actress-cum-director Zhao Wei had announced on her Weibo account she had cast Dai in a lead role in her third directorial work. While both Zhao and Dai initially ignored the Internet ruckus, it refused to die down. Instead, thousands more negative comments had flooded Weibo by the end of June, many of them calling for a boycott of No Other Love. Some users even published “evidence” like screenshots of Dai’s Facebook account that allegedly proved the actor supported Taiwan's separatist “Sunflower Student Movement,” which pushes for the island nation’s full independence from China.

In early July, the Mainland’s “Communist Youth League” joined in the fight and began using its own website to perpetuate the accusations against Dai. And on July 14, even the military newspaper China National Defense News grabbed the ugly issue in its news reporting and added an editorial that attacked both the actor and director. “Arts may have no boundaries, but artists have nationality and should [therefore] respect public feelings and cultivate a moral basis; and being patriotic is a basic ethic,” the editorial said.

The next day, Zhao Wei’s production company issued a statement apologizing for “not having done enough background checks” on Dai. It also announced that the actor might be replaced, a move which would necessitate extensive—and expensive—reshooting. Although No Other Love is still listed on imdb.com as being “in post-production,” its release is now very much in doubt. Furthermore, the controversy has since also affected other films in which Leon Dai has made an appearance. According to Chinese news website china.org.cn, Taiwan-produced film Island of Peace, which stars Dai in a major role, was originally slated to debut in Mainland theatres on July 29, but has now been delayed indefinitely, with no new release date announced. Meanwhile, Dai’s cameo in the Taiwan-China co-production At Cafe 6 has reportedly been completely deleted. Likewise scheduled to debut on the Mainland on July 29, it wasn’t clear at press time whether it would be released at all.

A Chinese Odyssey To Be Continued

Jeffery Lau's 1995 Hong Kong-produced romantic fantasy and comedy films A Chinese Odyssey: Pandora’s Box and A Chinese Odyssey: Cinderella, which were based on the 16th-century Chinese literary classic Journey to the West, will soon be joined by a third installment. This time produced by Mainland studio Chunqiu Time Culture, A Chinese Odyssey: The End is scheduled to open on Sept. 15 this year to coincide with China’s Mid-Autumn Festival, which traditionally draws huge crowds to the cinemas. Utilizing a budget of an estimated $20 million, part three of the cult classic series will reacquaint moviegoers with favorite characters like the Monkey King, who already featured prominently in the two previous installments. Alas, now 54-year-old comedy icon Stephen Chow, who played the Monkey King in the first two films, had to relinquish his role to younger actor Han Geng, who is only 32. The movie is nevertheless expected to become one of the biggest box-office lures of the year and is already trumpeted with great fanfare in the local media.

For inquiries and feedback, contact Thomas Schmid at thomas.schmid@filmjournal.com.