“Green Book,” “Bao,” “Minding the Gap,” and “Free Solo” — what do these films, either nominees or winners at the 91st Academy Awards, have in common?
They may fall into different categories, but each of them is connected to China in its own way: either involving directors of Chinese origin or with Chinese fund support in production.
A palpable undercurrent to this year’s Academy Awards, or the Oscars, is the growing presence of Chinese companies and filmmakers of Chinese origin at the global entertainment scene. In an increasingly interconnected world, the global entertainment industry is one of the frontlines where these connections are playing out, in ways that are mesmerizing and enriching.
The last and the biggest highlight at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on Sunday night was “Green Book,” co-produced by China’s Alibaba Pictures, scooping the award for Best Picture.
Alibaba Pictures has become the first Internet film company that has co-produced an Oscar best picture winner, the film division of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba said on Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging website. Alibaba Pictures has announced that the segregation-era road trip drama that takes place in the American South will be released in China on March 1.
“Green Book”‘s entrance and potential success given its newly acquired Oscar fame in the Chinese market is a positive sign of the growing maturity of China’s film market. Aside from big-name blockbusters from companies such as Disney and Marvel, other films dealing with serious topics can also compete for a share of the huge Chinese market.
Directors of Chinese origin also won recognition at Hollywood’s biggest night. “Bao,” an animated short film about a lonely Chinese mother who befriends a baozi that comes to life, saw its Chinese-Canadian director Domee Shi take the Oscar statuette home for best Animated Short Film.
The eight-minute short film premiered alongside “The Incredibles 2,” and before its Oscar win, has won accolades for its ability to connect emotionally with audience using the familiar tropes of family and food.
The film’s success is attributable to the fact that it communicated universally understood values in an easily-accessible format. “To all of the nerdy girls out there who hide behind your sketchbooks, don’t be afraid to tell your stories,” Shi said when she accepted the award.
Chinese-American director Bing Liu’s film “Minding the Gap,” which was nominated for Best Documentary Feature, is also worth mentioning. Though losing to heavy favorite “Free Solo,” which incidentally also boasts two directors of partial Chinese origin, it has won the Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
“Minding the Gap” tells the story of three young men of different backgrounds who are brought together by their shared passion for skateboarding. Its success proves the themes like companionship can cross cultural and racial boundaries, and help a film gain traction in international markets.
The 91st Academy Awards can be viewed as the starting point for a new period of growing influence for China in the international film industry. The medium of film proves to be effective in telling human stories that transcend national, political, and cultural boundaries. It is encouraging to see more Chinese companies, filmmakers, directors and actors using the medium well and playing an increasingly larger role in the ever-more interconnected global entertainment industry.