The Walt Disney Studios said Wednesday that Chinese actress Liu Yifei, also known as Crystal Liu, is set to star as the title woman warrior in Disney's live-action adaptation of the classic Chinese tale. A team of casting directors visited five continents and saw nearly 1,000 candidates for the role, which requires credible martial arts skills, the ability to speak English and the most ineffable requirement of all: star quality. In deference to cultural accuracy, the studio focused on locating an ethnically Chinese young woman to play Hua Mulan. It is expected to hit theaters in 2019.
从《火星救援》（The Martian）、《长城》（The Great Wall）、《变形金刚5》（Transformers 5），到今年获得奥斯卡终身成就奖的成龙主演的《英伦对决》（The Foreigner）以及摘得多枚国际奖项的《凯拉的世界》（Kayla’s World）。巨大的电影市场正吸引着国外电影资本涌入，盘点近几年的热门大片，贴着中美合拍、中美合作标签的电影不胜枚举。
Successful examples of China-US co-productions
The Foreigner, based on a novel by Stephen Leather and directed by Martin Campbell, is an old-school, politically-minded action thriller that technically pits Jackie Chan against Pierce Brosnan. They star in the London-set, China-U.S. co-production about a retired hitman avenging his daughter's death. The Foreigner successfully combines both a political drama and a grim revenge thriller with relative aplomb. This film, which crossed $100 million worldwide, is a solid example of succeeding as an American and Chinese theatrical success.
Kayla Victoria Bohan, LA based rising Chinese American child movie star, was awarded “Best Child Actress” and “Inspiring Woman in a Film” thanks to her outstanding performance in her first film Kayla’s World at 2016 Festigious Film Festival. The movie, released in 2017, tells a story of how a six-year-old faces her life after she lost her father.
Animal Crackers (or Magical Circus) is a 2017 computer animated comedy loosely based on a graphic novel written by The Dreamland Chronicles creator Scott Christian Sava, who also directed the film alongside Mulan director Tony Bancroft. The film follows the Huntington family as their lives are turned upside-down by a late distant relative who leaves behind an old traveling circus. The distributor is looking to release the movie some time next year.
Cross-cultural films getting popular
Andre Morgan of Ruddy Morgan Organization recounted his early days of making co-productions in Hong Kong in the 1970s, when few believed in China's ability in film co-making. But now things have changed. "Every year presents new challenges for co-productions, but China is ready to take on these challenges."
"China has 5000 years of stories to share," said Gu Guoqing, president of China Film Promotion International. "But we need to learn US film technology to share them properly."
Other experts addressed the kind of film and television projects most likely to succeed in the China market, agreeing that animation, documentaries, children's programming, action, sci-fi, fantasy, heartfelt stories, as well as adaptations of existing popular films and TV shows possessed the kind of universal appeal that enabled them to cross cultural divides more successfully.
Arthur Sarkissian, the A-list producer of "The Foreigner", took the film "A Dog's Purpose" as an example, which was popular in both the United States and China. "Love and loyalty resonate. Just tell the story from your heart and make the best movie you can," he said.
Chinese writer and director, Kate Bohan, wrote a cross-cultural family drama, "Kayla", which screened at the American Film Market this year. Kate told Xinhua, "It was important to us to make a heartfelt family film that could touch the hearts of people from both cultures -- and appeal to both markets. You need both the U.S. and China markets these days to succeed."
Overcoming cultural differences in co-producing
Several panelists agreed that co-pros with Chinese content need to be authentic and accurate, otherwise Chinese audiences will not respond well to them. They suggested that collaborating at an early stage on the script was key in order to give the script authenticity and to avoid culturally sensitive topics.
Stu Levy, Chair of the International Committee of the Producer's Guild of America, said U.S.-China co-pros present challenges that ordinary productions don't have to contend with, such as language barriers, differences in culture and stories, working styles, permit requirements, financing, etc.
"It takes serious people from both sides willing to roll up their sleeves and work to overcome these challenges to make a success of it," he added.
Vice president of Sony Picture, Katarina Hitz-Tough, pointed out it's important to understand what the movie-going experience means in each market. "What is it about your movie that makes someone in China or the U.S. need to see it in a theater instead of on the small screen?"
Bright future for co-pros
Many of the Chinese movie market insiders have voiced their bullish views for the future of China-U.S. co-productions.
Wei Xiandong, CEO of Shanghai Project Banana Films said he's been impressed by the success of U.S. movies in China's box office. "The U.S. has invested a lot of money in creating a global market for Hollywood films. China needs to do the same. We must go global."
Gu Jin, Cultural Counselor of Chinese Consulate-General in Los Angeles told Xinhua, "There is great potential to cooperate between the two largest markets in the world. The United States has a more mature film system with good, experienced professionals. China needs to learn these skills from the United States, while the United States can learn more about Chinese people and culture."