Meet puts accent on China growth, 3D potential

Co-operation with China and dealing with new technologies were much on everyone’s minds at this year’s Filmart in Hong Kong, where there was a more upbeat feeling to proceedings than last year.

A record 540 exhibitors from 29 countries attended the 14th Hong Kong International Film and TV Market, and the perspective was very much directed across the border to mainland China, where 120 of those exhibitors came from and where B.O. is expected to top $1.5 billion this year and where much of the impetus for productions in China is coming.

The big local players’ slates had a strong mainland Chinese feel to them as the local biz continues to enjoy the benefits of a booming economy across the water.

There was a sense of a region reviving. The Philippines and Taiwan doubled their presence, and Malaysia, Thailand and Korea all upped their representation.

And Europe was strong at the Filmart, with big delegations from Germany and France, while Austria, Croatia and Latvia were also on board.

There was lively interest in the Asian Side of the Doc co-production forum, the first time the event, which has run in France for 20 years, has taken place in Asia.

Sponsored by the European Union’s MEDIA programme, the event focused on buying, selling and screening documentaries, as well as workshops, pitching sessions and networking events.

It brought a whole new dimension to Filmart.

3D featured high on the agenda as Hong Kong’s biz wrestled with the notion about trying to expand on the success of “Avatar” on a more local level.

Hong Kong helmer Andrew Lau said that Hong Kong needed to embrace 3D to compete, Avatar stuntman Reuben Langdon’s Just Cause is getting involved with 3D projects in China and top Chinese helmer Zhang Yimou recently lobbied the country’s annual parliament for more investment in 3D technology.

Zhang was given an Outstanding Contribution to Asian Cinema gong at the Asian Film Awards and he said that Asian movies were gaining traction in the world and making more of an impact.

“But Asian filmmakers still have a lot of work to do before they can truly turn their movies into a medium through which ordinary people in other parts of the world can acquire a good understanding of Asian culture,” he said.

The “Raise the Red Lantern” helmer orchestrated last year’s Olympics opening festival and also choreographed a huge parade in October to mark the 60th anniversary of the Communist Party’s accession to power.

Zhang was looking to the next generation of helmers and said there was a better environment for filmmaking now.

“This is a liberal era and an era of diversity,” he said.

There was a poignant moment when Kit Hung took home the first-ever Wouter Barendrecht award at the 8th Hong Kong Asian Film Financing Forum, an award dedicated to the Hong Kong-based Dutch producer who died last year after a life spent promoting Asian cinema, including setting up the forum.

Five winners were chosen from 25 projects from 17 different territories, and included 12 co-production projects — the highest in the history of the forum, indicating a growing trend of inter-Asia film collaboration.

The biz is important to Hong Kong, and stopping piracy was an essential way of keeping it thriving, according to a report commissioned by the International Federation Against Copyright Theft — Greater China (IFACT-GC), which represents the Motion Picture Assn. in the territory. The Hong Kong film and television industry contributed HK$33 billion ($4.25 billion) to the local economy and created more than 32,000 jobs in 2008, it said.

“We have confirmation now that our work and our industry is simply too important to Hong Kong’s economy to let illegal online downloading ruin it,” said Nansun Shi, executive director of Film Workshop.

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