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Cultural Exchange: 2012 (6th) New Zealand Film Festival in China (I)


The 6th New Zealand Film Festival is about to be held respectively in Beijing, Guangzhou and Qingdao in April 2012. The films include 5 feature films and 5 narrative short films produced by filmmakers from New Zealand.

The Film Festival is organized by New Zealand Film Commission and the Film Bureau of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. The co-organizer of the Film Festival is the Pacific Culture and Arts Exchange Centre of New Zealand.

It is the 40th anniversary of China-New Zealand diplomatic relations, the 23rd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Auckland and Guangzhou as sister cities and the 4th anniversary for Auckland and Qingdao as sister cities. Len Brown, Mayor of Auckland, leading a business delegation of 40 members, is about to visit China and attend the inaugurations of the New Zealand Film Festival in the three cities. Holding the New Zealand Film Festival in China has special historic significance. It is a golden opportunity for Chinese audience to know New Zealand films. The films provide Chinese audience with a chance to understand the cultural background and social situation of New Zealand, strengthening the exchanges and understanding between China and New Zealand and building a platform for further development of our friendship. During the Film Festival, the New Zealand film industry participants of the delegation led by Mayor Brown will not only take part in the activities, but visit Zhujiang Film Group, Qingdao Animation Base, China Film Group Corporation, and Shanghai Film Group Corporation and meet the experts of Chinese film industry to discuss co-production and explore business opportunities for both parties.

New Zealand films enjoy a high reputation all over the world and become well-recognized by an increasing number of Chinese audiences. The New Zealand films, InMy Father’s Den and River Queen respectively received the Best Cinematography and the Best Music awards at the 2005 and 2006 Shanghai International Film Festival. In 2010, the film Under the Mountain won the Most Popular Foreign Actress Award at the 26th Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival.

The selected films such as Love Birds, My Wedding and Other Secrets, and The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell are mainly based on the screenplays adapted from true stories and featuring family harmony and social responsibility, which is closely related to the daily life of audience, matches the social situation and conforms to the presently advocated ideas of building a harmonious society and health families in China.

New Zealand is home to many outstanding film producers and directors, like Sir Peter Robert Jackson, best known as the director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong that brought him the highest honor in the international film industry. The essence of the New Zealand film industry lies in the sophisticated techniques of post-production. The motion picture post production facilities such as Park Road Post, Weta Workshop and Weta Digital are clusters for technicians with creative ideas, subtle skills and rich imagination. Weta was in charge of the post-production of Avatar, the 3D film winning the Oscar awards. They jointly write the fascinating history of New Zealand films. So far, New Zealand films have received 27 Oscar awards and plenty of Class A and B international film awards at the Cannes International Film Festival in France, Berlin International Film Festival in Germany, Tokyo International Film Festival, Busan International Film Festival in South Korea, Shanghai International Film Festival in China, Toronto International Film Festival in Canada, and Sundance Film Festival in the U.S.

New Zealand Film Commission has developed a set of effective operation mechanism for cultivating the next generation of filmmakers. At the beginning, new producers, directors, and screenwriters are encouraged to make narrative short films and take part in different international short film festivals. Only those receiving international awards are eligible to apply for the production funds granted by the New Zealand Film Commission, and these promising filmmakers, at the same time, are required to submit the contracts by and between distributors and them when applying for the funds to ensure distribution of their films. With this mechanism, new filmmakers are offered the opportunities and funds for filming, while the contacts guarantee the quality, distribution and screening channels of their works.

The 6th New Zealand Film Festival serves as a window for Chinese audiences to acquire further knowledge of New Zealand, which, in turn, builds a platform for New Zealand films to enter the Chinese market in the future. It also provides business opportunities for the development of China-New Zealand co-production projects.

In accordance with the current administrative rules for import and export of films in China, only 50 foreign films are allowed to enter the Chinese film market every year. At present, the foreign films introduced by cinemas in China are mostly blockbusting movies from the U.S. New Zealand is a small country that only produces 5-6 films every year. Moreover, it is a young country of European culture and has a history of a century from establishment. Considering the culture background of China and the demands of Chinese audience, New Zealand films are largely different in terms of culture, society, and experience and ideas of filmmakers. As a result, these differences become obstacles for New Zealand films to enter the Chinese market. The World’s Fastest Indian and River Queen were introduced into cinemas in China and yet both films failed to win the hearts of Chinese audience despite the former starring the Hollywood superstar Anthony Hopkins who received the Academy Award for Best Actor for The Silence of the Lambs and the latter focusing on the unique Māori culture and war. Co-production is the only way left for New Zealand films to enter the Chinese market. It is promising and tempting because China-New Zealand co-producing films are not constrained by the above-mentioned administrative rules, granting a free entry for New Zealand to the Chinese film market.

New Zealand filmmakers are still facing enormous challenges in order to meet the co-production requirements, combine the cultures of both countries and remove the constraints on co-production such as collaboration of directors and actors, location filming, and post-production. The China-New Zealand co-production agreement is a dream-come-true to many New Zealand filmmakers. During the New Zealand film delegation’s visit, it plans to facilitate the conclusion of letter of intent for cooperation between the NZ Film Academy Auckland and China Film Association, which is sure to lay a solid foundation for the long-term dialog and cooperation between filmmakers in China and New Zealand.

Among the participating films of the Film Festival, there is one film produced and directed by a Chinese. My Wedding and Other Secrets, a film co-written and directed by Roseanne Liang, has been selected to take part in the New Zealand Film Festival this year after participating the 20th (2011) Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival and receiving the special award from the organizing committee. The nomination has reflected that Chinese filmmakers, driven by the traditional spirit, are paving their ways to join the main filming teams in New Zealand and pursue success with the special persistence and diligence of Chinese people. Their contribution to New Zealand makes them the proud of China.

The New Zealand Film Festival offers the New Zealand filmmakers ample opportunities to show their creativity and works to Chinese audience so that they can better understand New Zealand’s culture, geographic information, economic status, education, family life, and social conditions. So far, New Zealand is the only country in the world that has established long-term cooperation on film festivals with China.

The Film Festival this year is sponsored by Fresher Future New Zealand Limited, Sean’s Studio of New Zealand, Beijing Xinguangjiao Film & TV Co., Ltd., Rainbow China Culture and Media Group of New Zealand, Kunming Jialong Culture Media Co., Ltd., Flux Animation Studios of New Zealand, Two Dragons Film & TV Production Group of New Zealand and DHL New Zealand. It also has obtained full support from Auckland Government, NZ Film Academy Auckland, New Zealand Embassy and Consulate-General, the Embassy of the PRC in New Zealand and Consulate-General of the PRC in Auckland.

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