New York Asian Film Festival sheds spotlight on Chinese cinema and talent

China 24

The New York Asian Film Festival is bringing rising stars and notable filmmakers from China into the international spotlight. This year, the festival is featuring a wider range of Chinese productions than ever before.

However, despite growing audiences in China, America is still struggling to embrace Chinese cinema. CGTN’s Nick Harper filed this report from New York.

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Chinese cinema is seldom in the U.S. spotlight. But for a short time, it will be center stage in New York. The Chinese movie ‘Wrath of Silence’ is certainly making noise at the city’s Asian Film Festival. The gritty, noir thriller is set in rural China, and revolves around the anti-hero, mining magnate played by Chinese actor Jiang Wu.

The celebrated actor received an Asian Star Award at the New York Film Festival for the intensity of his performance. Yet despite good reviews and favorable publicity, it’s unclear if English-speaking audiences will go watch the movie. Jiang believes language shouldn’t be a barrier.

“I think all good movies have commonalities. No matter if they are Chinese or American movies, as long as they are good, people will appreciate and understand them,” Jiang said.

Director Xin Yukun won acclaim in China for his debut crime feature, ‘The Coffin In the Mountain,’ which made back its budget at the box office six-times over. Xin thinks showing his second movie in New York presents an opportunity to widen the appeal of Chinese cinema.

 “I definitely believe this is an ongoing process. But the reason we bring this film to different film exhibitions is to show more of our foreign audience today’s Chinese movies. People rarely have these kinds of opportunities to learn about China’s culture. I feel like movies would be a great opening window,” Xin said.

This year’s festival includes a broader range of Chinese films, including serial-killer thriller, ‘The Looming Storm,’ and the comedic, ‘Looking for Lucky.’ Organizers have said the focus on the Chinese mainland reflects exciting developments in cinema there.

“It’s a little bit like this volcano that’s about to explode and all types of things are coming out. And it’s burning hot as well,” said Samuel Jamier, director of the New York Asian Film Festival.

In China, cinema attendance in booming. Last year, the Motion Picture Association of America reported Chinese audiences accounted for almost a fifth of all global ticket sales. In contrast, Canada and the U.S. box office takings hit a 22-year low.

The rise of streaming services like Netflix is allowing Americans more accessibility to foreign films. Regardless, the festival still struggles with negative preconceptions.

“There’s a bit of a fear when it comes to Chinese films. I think the decades of anti-communism and the idea of the red scare, the red peril, it’s still continuing. So when it comes to promoting, to showcasing in a fair way, Chinese films it’s an uphill battle,” Jamier said.

Movie-going and making-movie seems to be going through a golden age in China. However, very few Chinese movies ever get seen by American audiences. This festival is aiming to change that by raising the profile and, more importantly, the visibility of Chinese cinema.

Samuel Jamier discusses films and talent of the New York Asian Film Festival

CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke to Samuel Jamier about China’s film industry. Jamier is the Executive Director of the New York Asian Film Festival.