China’s new Film Industry Promotion Law sparks discussion among filmmakers both at home and abroad

2017/3/1 11:33:00 (Beijing Time)   Source:Global Times    By:

Opinions differ between domestic and foreign filmmakers when it comes to the recently implemented China Film Industry Promotion Law, the first of its kind in the Chinese mainland. While the film law has been viewed relatively optimistically by the country's industry insiders, it has caused a bit of concern for the Western film industry.

Adopted last November, the China Film Industry Promotion Law comes into effect on Wednesday. While the actual impact the law will have remains to be seen, there have already been numerous analyses from domestic and foreign experts and media concerning the law and its articles.

As the Chinese film market continues to grow, each and every move within the Chinese film industry draws international attention. When news reached the West that China was going to implement a film law aimed at promoting its home industry, many Western media outlets expressed concern over some of the wording in the law.

"China has passed a law that bans film content deemed harmful to the 'dignity, honor and interests' of the country. It also encourages the promotion of 'socialist core values,'" a November report from the Guardian wrote.

"There are provisions that will be welcomed by Hollywood - such as harsh penalties for box-office fraud and film piracy - as well as others that could be cause for concern, like a vaguely worded guideline restricting collaboration with overseas studios or individuals that are deemed to have 'damaged China's national dignity,'" The Hollywood Reporter wrote.

These concerns are not unfounded. In the past, some Hollywood stars have not been welcome in China due to their political stances. Now that China contributes a heavy percentage to many Hollywood blockbusters' box-office results, ensuring a film doesn't touch on sensitive issues is an important financial decision.

Zhou Xing, dean of the School of Art and Communication at Beijing Normal University, told the Global Times on Monday that Western filmmakers need not be too worried about this article in the new law.

"It is a sign that China has realized the importance of setting its own independent values and that China is paying more attention to its culture dominance… in a time when Western values, whether positive or negative, are spreading their influence," Zhou said.

Zhou noted, however, that authorities' emphasis on this will not interfere with foreign films' coming to the Chinese market.

According to Zhou, the government's emphasis on building its own Chinese socialist culture was present long before the law, yet recent years have still seen a rising number of imported films.

"I think we will continue to see an increase in the number of imported films and overseas studios will see a larger share of what they get from the box office in China," Zhou said. 

Even the name of the law seems to reflect a change in the Chinese government's attitude toward film.

According to a report from people.com.cn in 2015, a member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee proposed that the new law simply be named "Film Law." The reasoning behind this being that for decades filmmaking in China was seen as nothing more than a platform for official ideology. However, by including "industry" in the laws title, this shows that the government is officially acknowledging that filmmaking in China is now a commercial industry in its own right.  

The domestic reaction to the law has been very different.

For example, a recent hot topic among Chinese netizens is whether celebrities who have been convicted of drug use or solicitation of prostitution should be given the chance to return back to the big screen.

This debate stemmed from a comment made by Tsinghua University professor Yin Hong, in which he stated that celebrities who have run up against the law should be able to return so long as they have corrected their past mistakes and are ready to make a fresh start.

The debate mainly centers on the lack of guidance when it comes to dealing with those who have already made mistakes. The new law only states that "actors, directors and other staff within the industry should possess excellent moral integrity and skills… and have a good social image."

As for most Chinese filmmakers, they are approaching the new law from a more practical standpoint.

"What I am focused on the most is how the implementation of the law will improve the quality of the industry as a whole and how it will help speed up the production process for getting films made," Gao Yancai, chairman of Zhongying Shixun Media, told the Global Times.

Previously, entire scripts had to be handed in to related authorities for review and approval before production on a film could begin.

However, under the new law, filmmakers that are not making films concerning national security, diplomacy, ethnic relations, religion or other sensitive subjects merely need to provide a rough synopsis of their project in order to attain the approval needed to move on to the production stage.

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