As the 85th Academy Awards ceremony stretched into the night of February 24, 2013, at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, China discovered that Ang Lee had received the best director Oscar for Life of Pi. The award marked Lee’s second Best Director Oscar after winning for Brokeback Mountain in 2006. Validated once again by the mainstream film industry of the West, Ang Lee brought pride to the entire Chinese-speaking community. The last few years have not only seen increasing numbers of Chinese directors and actors appearing on the international stage, but also a greater volume of Chinese elements being incorporated into international films.
China’s massive movie market is obviously one major reason for the phenomenon. In 2012, the Chinese mainland’s box office revenue reached US$2.74 billion, ranking the nation the world’s second largest film market. Of the $2.74 billion, only $1.29 billion was earned by domestic productions, while imports accounted for $1.45 billion.
China’s huge consumption potential has made the market coveted by international film investors. At a forum during the 2012 Hong Kong International Film Festival, producers from Hollywood exhibited high expectation for the Chinese market.
They asserted that over the last ten years, box office revenue from Asia has surpassed the United States as China’s box office revenue has only increased. As evidenced by films such as Mulan and Kung Fu Panda, which were inspired by Chinese folk tales and national icons, to 2012, Avatar, and Cloud Atlas, greater numbers of international films have begun to incorporate Chinese elements.
At the same time, Western opinions about China, embedded in the subtext of such films, are also obviously changing.
Actress Zhou Xun played a man, a blue-eyed woman, and a bob-haired clone, three highly contrasting characters, in centuriesspanning sci-fi film Cloud Atlas. With a budget of over US$100 million, Cloud Atlas is the culmination of multinational cooperation involving the United States, China, and Germany. In the film’s first five-minute teaser trailer, two close-ups were given to the Chinese girl.