Oliver Stone was characteristically outspoken on the second day of the Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF), challenging China to rethink international co-productions and start making films that examine its past.
Speaking at the Sino-Foreign Film Co-production Forum, Stone said, “most international co-productions are bullshit”, due to their bad acting and casting, as expecting actors to use a second language usually doesn’t work.
“The international ballgame has gotten bigger and bigger with films like Iron Man 3 and Transformers,” Stone said, referring to the trend of incorporating Chinese elements into studio pictures. “I hope they use China well. But using Chinese actors in the background because you want money is not an artistic approach.”
Stone also said he’s “run into a wall” three times trying to make films in China about Mao Tse-tung, the Cultural Revolution and a documentary around the Beijing Olympics. “Three times I’ve made real efforts to coproduce and come up short. We have shown the flaws of our countries. It’s about time to make movies about Mao and the Cultural Revolution.”
When moderator Zhang Xun, head of China Film Coproduction Corp (CFCC), said China’s filmmaking policy is designed to protect locals audiences, Stone rebutted: “I’m not talking about making tourism films – we need to see the history of China. You talk about protecting the people from their own history.”
Frederick Huntsberry, COO of Transformers producer Paramount Pictures, said: “I agree that the term co-production has been used and misused too often. But elements can be incorporated into the movie. With Transformers 4, it’s important that localisation is incorporated organically at the script stage.”
Alfonso Cuaron, talking about the inclusion of Chinese elements in Gravity, said it was a completely organic decision taken long before the current hype around China and co-productions. “These are the elements in space today – the US, Russia and China. It wasn’t calculated and you cannot calculate co-productions in terms of content.”
Cuaron also urged Chinese filmmakers to create their own business models rather than following working practices in the West: “The important thing is integrity – now you’re the second biggest market, you have an amazing opportunity not to follow but to create new models that are diverse – and in which the more economically driven co-productions can co-exist with something more organic.”
UK producer Peter Czernin (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) added that the key to co-production is finding the right partners: “You need to find somebody you trust and who in terms of film projects really understands the script.”
MPAA chief Christopher Dodd and SAPPRFT deputy director Tong Gang both gave opening keynotes at the Forum, which also featured speakers including French actor Jean Reno, Russian director Timur Bekmambetov, Wanda Media boss Ye Ning and Chinese filmmaker Ying Ning.
The Forum was preceded by announcements on upcoming co-production projects Warriors Gate, to be co-produced by EuropaCorp and Fundamental Films, and a sequel to Arclight Films’ Outcast, a co-production with Yunnan Film Group. The first Outcast, starring Nicolas Cage, recently filmed in China.
The festival opened last night (April 16) with a screening of Christophe Gans’ Beauty And The Beast and stars including Reno, Zhang Ziyi and Wang Xueqi on the red carpet. Previous editions of the festival did not feature any opening film, suggesting that organisers have listened to criticism that its opening ceremony was previously more focused on showcasing Beijing rather than the art of cinema.