During the 67th Berlin Film Festival, the first Award Ceremony of “Asian Brilliant Stars” (ABS) was successfully held. “ABS” Award is aimed to raise the curtain for in-depth integration of Asian films and European films. In the future, through ABS platform, outstanding films of more Asian countries will shine in the European and international film stage.
Award Ceremony of “Asian Brilliant Stars” (ABS) is jointly held by Asian Film & Television Promotion (AFTP), reached strategic cooperation with Berlin Film Festival, Beijing Film Academy and Actor Committee of China Radio and Television Association, and confers three awards for personnel behind the scenes of film industry, i.e., “Best Screenwriter”, “Best Producer” and “Best Director”. Finally, these three awards were conferred to Liu Zhenyun, Ye Ning and Xu Haofeng.
Interview is hereby made to Richard Shen, Secretary-General of the AFTP.
Film is the integration of business and art
CFM: Mr. Shen, you are a business elite and your enterprise also makes outreach in the film industry. Why do you show special preference to the film industry?
Richard Shen: Many people regard the film industry as an entertainment industry. But in fact, I prefer to use the film industry as an educational industry. Film and television industry plays a very important role in the formation of people’s values. It not only features media dissemination and entertainment functions, but also the enlightenment functions. For example, we may get more profound impressions from the film and television works to understand the world and history, which even overshadows textbooks. Leading actor of a time-honored movie “Heintje: Once the Sun Will Be Shining Again” is invited to attend Award Ceremony of Asian Brilliant Stars (ABS). A lot of audiences at my age burst into tears when they heard this actor singing. At that time, this film not only let us know about Europe, but also impressed us with sincerity, kindness and beauty, constituting part of our life experience and memory. In this sense, I believe that film and television works are actually cultural products with ability to shape up the human soul. We should pay enough attention to them.
CFM: In the process of operation in the film industry, do you refer to some successful experience in other business areas?
Richard Shen: Yes, of course. I am not only a rookie in the film and television industry, but also a businessman. Film and television works not only contain elements of artistic products, but also commodity attributes. From business perceptive, film and television works should be deemed as commodities at first. Of course, this does not mean giving up its artistry and feelings. In fact, a wonderful commodity has the embedded elements of art, and achieves the balance between artistic feeling and commercial value, among others. I think that as a businessman, I will do more to achieve such a balance.
CFM: Nowadays, a lot of outsiders are also swarming into film industry through crossover efforts. How will such crossover power and capital influence film industry in your opinion?
Richard Shen: Nowadays we all like to use the word “crossover”. But in fact, another word may be more suitable, that is, “integration”. Integration of business and art is constantly happening. Penetration and integration in business, film & TV industry is also happening, which demonstrates advantages and disadvantages. In my opinion, advantages outweigh disadvantages on the whole. From the business perspective, the ultimate goal is not only to roll out popular product, but also to ensure profitability.
In the past, there was a saying: Pure art film is OK even it does not make money but captures the soul of art. I think this argument irresponsible. If the film is unprofitable, this means few film viewers. Art film should not merely indulge in self-admiration. Otherwise, who will invest in art film? It is a commercial pursuit to seek both popularity and profitability. Of course, commercial pursuit does not imply neglect of the quality. It is critical is to strike a balance. An artist’s works should also be appreciated and favored by more people. An entrepreneur should not become mercenary to give up the quality and completely cater to the audiences in order to make investment return, which is unsustainable.
CFM: You profoundly specialize in the film industry by investing in and starring in some film and television works. Can you tell me your insights in your crossover from other industry to film industry?
Richard Shen: In my opinion, the integration of business and the film and television industry should make more progress. More entrepreneurs should take part in film production. Film and television works have their own particularity, which are a type of cultural product in essence. Professional and technical barriers exist in film and television industry. At present, there are many ambiguous parts in all aspects: For example, non-transparence in casting selection, finance, distribution and the industry statistics (such as box office and audience rating). I believe if the power of business sweeps this industry and capitals of listed companies flow into this industry, they constantly requires transparency. This will be certainly conducive for the development of the industry. Now I think I have no mature experience as yet, and will continue to explore.
“Asian Brilliant Stars” aims to promote exchange between Asia and the rest of the world
CFM: On behalf of the Organizer, can you introduce the purpose and opportunity of launching “Asian Brilliant Stars”?
Richard Shen: “Asian Brilliant Stars” is inspired by “European Brilliant Stars”. I think that “European Brilliant Stars” successfully presents some rising European stars to the world stage through Berlin Film Festival. In China, high remuneration for stars is a big problem. In essence, this is attributed to the relationship between supply and demand. Few stars are top-grade while the market demand is particularly huge. If this event can create a new mechanism, it is the best outcome. “European Brilliant Stars” boasts 20-year successful track record, and it is of great reference significance for the Chinese industry. We plan to continuously present new stars through “Asian Brilliant Stars” in the future so that Chinese and the Asian film and television newcomers can cut a striking figure in the international arena, and more people can be familiar with them.
Now the Chinese economy has ranked second in the world. But the Chinese cultural industry, especially the film and television industry, failed to tap into the mainstream market of the West. Few western people watch Chinese films, and few western people know about the Chinese stars. I always reflect on why not convey the Chinese culture and outstanding Chinese values to people across the world through films? Asian population accounts for two-thirds of the global population; Asia is multi-ethnic and enjoys diverse cultures. But the West actually holds a fragmented understanding of Asia. If international image of Asia can be established through the film carrier, it is certainly a good thing.
In addition, there are economic benefits. European film industry also wishes to launch comprehensive cooperation with the Chinese and Asian film industry. With such a platform, both parties can learn from each other. We can learn more mature experience from Europe, and Europe can also understand China’s market demand. Through such a platform, complementarity is established between both parties. I think it is of vital significance.
CFM: Are there any ongoing plans for promoting inter-industry exchanges between Asia and the rest of the world?
Richard Shen: “Asian Brilliant Stars” has signed a strategic partnership agreement with Berlin Film Festival. The agreement was signed in October 2016. So the available preparation time for the first Award Ceremony of “Asian Brilliant Stars” (ABS) was only a few months. As a result, few countries participated in. After this first event, we will quickly communicate with Japan, South Korea, India, Thailand and other major Asian film production countries, invite more Asian film agencies to participate in, and select such films that truly represent the high level of Asian film to draw on each other’s experience together with European peers. This work will continue to be under way, which requires a lot of effort, capital and human inputs.
CFM: What is the most attractive aspect of Berlin Film Festival as a useful platform?
Richard Shen: Berlin Film Festival is a treasured place for fengshui or Asian films and especially the Chinese films. It is a god-given platform. Firstly, the relationship between Germany and China is very stable. Secondly, many of Chinese films embrace the world through Berlin Film Festival, including those films directed by Zhang Yimou and other directors. It should be said that Berlin Film Festival shows more great kindness for Chinese films than other film festivals. Thirdly, Berlin Film Festival lays special emphasis on artistic quality, and pays attention to the works. It is not a commerce-dominated platform. In my opinion, in today’s world with excessive commercial flavors, such film festivals that stick to the unique values and devote to the tireless pursuit of the art are more needed. Cooperation between “Asian Brilliant Stars” and Berlin Film Festival is very favorable for both parties.
Film self-confidence depends on national self-confidence and cultural self-confidence
CFM: With the Chinese films attracting more spotlights in the international arena and many Chinese stars also making debut on the international film festivals, in your opinion, how should Chinese stars make presence in order to better radiate charms of the Chinese culture?
Richard Shen: This is a very important issue, and the Chinese cultural workers should think about this issue. At present, the so-called “internationalization” of the whole Chinese society is actually equal to “Occidentalization”, which is certainly inevitable. But we have to guard against it. Today, as Europe and the United States are relatively developed, they are culturally “aggressive” and play a model role especially for young people. I think that such a phenomenon not only takes place in China, but also in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. But I think that such a phenomenon is only a stage. When China, South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries growing strong, when we have national self-confidence, and when we create good works, we will not blindly follow or imitate foreign culture. But it depends on our concerted efforts.
Now the China-made Huawei, MI and other high-quality brands have gained new ground in the international market. Previously, we preferred imported mobile phones and favored Apples, Samsung and the like. Now we are proud of buying Chinese products. In fact, this embodies self-confidence. But this self-confidence is neither established overnight nor reversed by slogan.
Now Chinese stars prefer V-shaped face. Why? In addition to the film screen that widens the human face, there is a very important reason: these stars imitate human style of Europe and the United States because Western people have very small face. Beauty is a kind of subjective cognition. Western aesthetic standards prevail in the Chinese society, which actually reveals that our cultural confidence is relatively low. I believe that this situation will slowly change.
CFM: What do you think about the Chinese films which are “Going Global”?
Richard Shen: I think this is a macro proposition and it is necessary to gain insights into it from many aspects. In fact, it is very difficult for a small country’s film to embrace the world. “Going Global” of films is certainly accompanied by the country’s economic development and profound culture, including the artists’ form of expression. “Going Global” is a slow process for films. At this point, South Korea and Japan go ahead of China.
On one hand, China should continue to grow strong and prosperous. On the other hand, art professionals should pursue for lofty goals. In addition, there must be a high-profile platform for showcasing, which is an attempt made by “Asian Brilliant Stars”. Firstly, “Asian Brilliant Stars” Campaign is tailored to the whole Asia, which contains a number of major Asian countries. Secondly, “Asian Brilliant Stars”, Berlin Film Festival and the mainstream European film insiders join hands. In the future, we will have more exchanges, seminars, cooperation and more joint ventures so as to make full use of advantageous resources.
The Chinese Nation is time-honored. The Chinese culture is very brilliant and we take pride in it. China’s long history leaves us countless stories and countless historical figures. These are actually ideal IP resources. We should not have nothing to do with our history. Instead, we should carry forward and tap into these real historical elements so as to ceaselessly spread values of the Chinese culture. If every filmmaker can work hard in this connection, it is just around the corner for the Chinese films to go global.