Beijing, 4 Apr (ZXS) -- How can films promote cultural exchanges between the East and the West?

——Interview with Ding Yaping, Director of the Faculty of Arts of Communication University of China and author of "Chinese Film History"

China News Agency reporter Wen Longjie

The English version of "Chinese Film History" was recently published by Foreign Languages Publishing House. This is the first English-language book published in China on the history and development of Chinese cinema, which has attracted widespread attention.

What is the development of Chinese films? Film is an important carrier of culture, what role does it play in the cultural exchange between East and West? How will the release of the English version of "Chinese Film History" enhance the international influence and discourse power of Chinese films in the field of film history? China News Service East-West Question recently interviewed Ding Yaping, Director of the Faculty of Arts at Communication University of China and author of "Chinese Film History", to discuss how film can promote chinadialogue.

The following is a summary of the interview:

China News Agency: What is the development context of Chinese film history?

Ding Yaping: The year after the Lumière brothers showed their films to audiences in a café in Paris, France, Shanghai had film screenings and was seen as the starting point of China's projection industry. On the whole, the departure of Chinese films is almost synchronized with world cinema. Specifically, China's 5,000-year-old cultural heritage, national spirit, and national fables are all integrated into this art genre, which was born much later than music, dance, and literature.

Looking back at the development of Chinese films for more than 100 years, films have always mapped the magnificent course of modern and modern Chinese society with their multi-dimensional image imagination, forming a Chinese film development landscape with obvious national imprints in terms of film functions, production mechanisms, communication mechanisms, and artistic aesthetics. The social picture of Chinese people's life and historical changes is contained in the colorful image world, which not only embodies the historical moments and national memories across the times, but also becomes the pulse of all countries in the world to touch China's progress.

Pictures "Dingjun Mountain", "Song Girl Red Peony", "Fishing Light Song" and other movie posters representing many "firsts" of Chinese films attracted visitors. Photo by Zhai Yujia

Movies have been naturally associated with business since their birth. In the commercial competition, the initial production model of domestic films is built, and the social impact is increasing. In the 20s of the 30th century, the emerging film movement led film creation towards realism. Since then, whether social, romantic, humanistic or commercial, the creation of films has enriched the creator's thinking about social reality and the prospects of the times, and the image has truly bridged the gap between the audience and reality, and placed expectations on a better future.

Since the founding of New China, the importance of Chinese film realism has been once again confirmed, and on this basis, new possibilities in the narrative and performance of genre films have been continuously expanded, and literary and artistic films have always been present with a stubborn trend. Chinese films entering the new era have presented a diversified, orderly and tenacious new pattern in terms of overall development, even in the face of such a major challenge as the extreme cold market, they still stimulate new vitality in film creation, and create more attractive, influential and vital works by going back to history, inheriting the beauty of film, and attaching importance to social significance.

China News Agency: What are the characteristics of Chinese film culture?

Ding Yaping: Culture is a concentrated embodiment of a country's and nation's spiritual beliefs, lifestyles, and social ideals, and film, as a cultural product, also reflects the basic judgments of politics, society, ethics, art and other fields. Whether the cultural value conveyed by the film can be accepted by the audience is the key to the success of the film in the market competition, and different historical periods, the environment of the times, social reality and audience cognition are different, all of which directly affect the film culture. Generally speaking, Chinese films have always realized the construction and dissemination of cultural values in the integration of tradition and modernity, history and reality. Excellent traditional culture and historical legends have achieved modern transformation in the film medium, which is the characteristic of Chinese film culture and the foundation of Chinese films in international competition.

Picture: A group of filmmaking scene sculptures at Qingdao Film and Television Base. Photo by Han Jiajun

From the mission of "social education" at the beginning to today's march towards "film power", Chinese film culture has undergone changes from consciousness to self-confidence, from theory to practice, and film language has become more and more comfortable carrying ideological expression. Early Chinese films were successively influenced by Hollywood films and Soviet film theories, and in the thirties and forties of the 20th century, they were influenced by the Anti-Japanese War to show the presentness of "resistance aesthetics". Since the founding of New China, Chinese films have relied on the accumulation of past theories and practices to focus more on the exploration of national styles. How to transform ideas into images and integrate them into artistic aesthetic functions is still a test in front of Chinese films.

The rapid development of contemporary Chinese films contains a cultural logic, which can be summarized as highlighting the presentness of China's self-confidence, self-improvement, integrity and innovation in the new era. Although the impact of the new crown epidemic has not completely receded, Chinese films still rely on resilience to expand their creative space, update their creative themes, and strive to present broad prospects. At the same time, the mutual promotion between film criticism, theory and practice also promotes the organic connection between Chinese films and social processes and cultural traditions, and all kinds of films, from history to reality, interpret the Chinese spirit in an all-round way.

China News Agency: As an important cultural carrier, what role does film play in promoting cultural exchanges between the East and the West?

Ding Yaping: Movies enjoy the reputation of "ambassadors in film boxes" and are a business card of Chinese culture to the world. Although the times, countries, cultures, nationalities and other backgrounds are different, the deep excavation of human nature and the expression and interpretation of human emotions in film language are interconnected, and the world's rich expression of human nature will resonate.

Due to the different geographical location, living customs, national psychological accumulation, etc., the East and the West have derived different history, color, background, element of culture, film works have multiple functions of commodities, artworks, cultural carriers, and their overseas communication carries a story after story, touching and integrating with local culture in different countries, providing a larger platform and space for cultural exchanges. As an icebreaker of cultural mutual trust, the significance of film in cultural exchange is not limited to the film itself, and activities such as co-productions, imported films, film festivals, and film screening weeks are providing unlimited potential and opportunities for communication and dialogue.

Zhang Yimou, Jackie Chan, Chen Daoming, Zhang Guoli, Wu Jing, Zhang Hanyu and other filmmakers appeared at the 28th China Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival. Photo by Li Siyuan

Hollywood movies have long been the most important export of American values. The United States can expand the global film market because of its huge cultural value influence, and the establishment of a value system including film in the communication, which has a far-reaching impact. In recent years, the position of the Chinese film market in the world has become more and more important, and in 2020 and 2021, it has become the largest global film market for two consecutive years, the fundamental reason is the integrity and innovation of Chinese films.

Chinese films, which have experienced the cooling of capital and the new crown epidemic, are embarking on a new journey, adhering to open discourse choices, international vision, and an inclusive mind, and more consciously assuming the responsibility of alleviating the dilemma of international communication culture. The harmonious wisdom of Chinese filmmakers is infused in film creation, using film as a medium to strengthen East-West dialogue, help foreign audiences better understand Chinese culture, and highlight the ideological and spiritual power behind China's road, China's governance, and China's theory on the world stage.

China News Agency: What are the main points of interest in the international academic community in the discussion of Chinese film studies?

Ding Yaping: As the call for "the world needs China" has become stronger, theories on various issues in China have become more and more prosperous. In 1928, Hou Yao's "Tales of the West Wing" was released in France, and the following year the film was screened at the Avonley Cinema in London, England. The British "Times" commented: "Viewers are like re-reading ancient myths", "The whole drama describes a serious and quiet attitude, there is no intimidation and intense stimulation in the film, it is a very quiet and fresh and polite work, after the audience watches, there is a fragrance and cheeks, film lovers, come to see this special style of Chinese film." "The works of the fifth generation of directors have frequently won awards at international film festivals, and Chinese films have attracted much attention internationally. Looking back at the international path of Chinese films, the infectious individual stories are more acceptable to overseas audiences.

In "Native China", Fei Xiaotong regards the local land as a "special specific line" in China's grassroots traditional society, and the inheritance of generational experience by people born in Sri Lanka is one of the important symbols that distinguish it from modern society and Western countries. Judging from the existing results of international studies of Chinese films, academic circles tend to understand the history, text, theory and market of Chinese films from the perspectives of sociology and production relations, and read Chinese culture through Chinese films. As a masterpiece of the Chinese film industry, "The Wandering Earth" integrates local feelings into the doomsday narrative, juxtaposes national emotions with world issues, and liberates from the opposition between East and West.

On January 2023, 1, fans watched the domestic sci-fi film "The Wandering Earth 22" at a cinema in Shanghai. Photo by Chen Yuyu

China News Agency: How will the release of the English version of "Chinese Film History" enhance the international influence and discourse power of Chinese films in the field of film history?

Ding Yaping: Doing a better job of promoting Chinese culture to go global, using literature to carry the way, using literature to spread voices, and using cultural people is of considerable national strategic value. As an important content of culture, film feels the turmoil of the times and is one of the most critical objects of "going out". In addition to the film level, the academic sense of Chinese film's "going out" is equally important, in the context of the culture of the times, studying the history and practice of Chinese film art multifaceted is an important part of the overall strategy of "going out" and should be paid attention to.

English edition of Chinese Film History

The Foreign Languages Publishing House has launched the English version of "Chinese Film History" written by me, which is the first English-language book on Chinese film history published in China. English is the most widely spoken language in the world, and the release of the English version of "Chinese Film History" provides a wealth of empirical materials and unique academic perspectives for scholars studying film around the world, which means that more people will understand the past and present of Chinese films through it.

To enhance the international communication of Chinese films, it is also necessary to strengthen cross-border and cross-cultural dialogues between filmmakers and scholars for the global academic community, with Chinese films as the key field. In this regard, academic translation and publication of films is particularly important. The English version of "Chinese Film History" is like a window through which the world can understand history and culture, see more aspects of China, and the international dissemination of Chinese film culture and the further expansion of Chinese film studies will have a very positive impact. (End)

Profiles of the experts interviewed:

Ding Yaping, Director of the Faculty of Arts, Communication University of China, researcher of the China Academy of Arts, distinguished professor and doctoral supervisor of Beijing Film Academy. The first doctoral program of film studies trained in China. President of China College Film and Television Society. Cultural masters and "four batches" talents of the Central Propaganda Department, leading talents of the National High-level Talent Special Support Program of the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, and "excellent experts" of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Executive member of the film selection committee of the main competition unit "Temple of Heaven Award" of the 11th-13th Beijing International Film Festival. Director of China Film Association, member of the Film Censorship Committee of the National Film Administration, editor-in-chief of the film and television discipline of the Encyclopedia of China (Third Edition). He is the author of more than 1945 titles, including "Art and Culture", "General History of Chinese Cinema" (two volumes), "Image China: Chinese Film Art 1949-20", "Old Film Era", "Traces of Film", "History of Contemporary Chinese Film Art", "History of Chinese Film" (three volumes), etc. He is the chief editor of "A Hundred Years of Chinese Film Theory Anthology (Part I and Part II)", "Film Series", "TV Series", "Art Museum" Series and many other books.