In the same year that Canneshad its first Chinese jury president in Wong Kar-wai, China's leading filmfestival returned the honour by appointing a French jury president - filmmakerand EuropaCorp co-founder Luc Besson.

In addition to his juryduties, Besson had a packed schedule of meetings with filmmakers, film studentsand government officials in both Shanghai and Beijing. His films are well known in China and his Arthur series of children's books - one ofwhich, Arthur And The Minimoys,Besson has adapted into a CGI-live action feature - were published in China last year. He also took time out to speak to ScreenDaily.

What advice would you give to Chinese filmmakers whowant to expand their audience' Should they aim overseas or focus on theirdomestic market'

They should make Chinesefilms and build up their own culture. And if the subject deserves it - if theywant to shoot overseas or do the film a little differently - then they can openthemselves to a European studio, or an American studio if they have to. I'vespoken to students at Beijing University while I've been here and told them it's veryimportant to defend their own culture. Then after a few films, if they want to,they can open a little more.

Should they become more open to genre filmmaking' Chinesecinema seems to be polarised between arthouse and mainstream movies and somesuccessful directors have been accused of selling out.

We have the same problem inevery country in Europe. If you're making an intellectual film, then you'rea real artist, but if the film starts to make money, then suddenly it's poor andcriticised by the intelligentsia. Only American filmmakers don't have thisproblem.

So they [Chinese filmmakers]have to follow their hearts and express what they want to express. Of the 25films that a big American studio produces each year, only three to five areprofitable, so if there was a formula to make films successful, we would knowit by now. But there isn't - so just do the film you want to do. You can spendhundreds of millions of dollars to make Poseidonand the film is a flop.

I don't want to soundconceited but the fact that we have this European studio, EuropaCorp, producing10-12 films a year, sometimes with American partners, sometimes with Italian,is proof that it works. You can do the film you like starting from your owncountry and have an international audience once in a while.

What do think the prospects are for the revival of apan-European studio along the same lines as PolyGram'

I think we should never forgetthat every film is unique, so each time you try a model that is too big thereis a conflict. For example, American studios may decide a release date for Europe from Los Angeles, sometimeswithout any perception of the country, and that's bad for the film. Everycountry has some good local distributors, and specifically, one film is goodwith one distributor and another film with another.

We try to give good films tothe best distributor so I don't feel it's necessary to create a EuropaCorpGermany or England. Better to share with someone who loves your filmand wants to defend it, because suddenly you send the film to yourrepresentative in Croatia, and he doesn't like the film but still has to release it. Don't expecthim, even if he's professional, to do the same job as someone who loves thefilm. Cinema is the art of desire so you have to respect that until the end.

Do you think Europe and Asia shouldwork together to make bigger films that can compete with Hollywood'

That's only theory becausethe reality is the film. If there's a film where it's logical to have an Asianassociate then that's great. Let's do it - but let's not force it. Every filmis unique so if Jiang Wen wants to do a film where the guy leaves China and goes to see his niece in France, then yes he should talk to me and we should makethe film together. But if the film is about this Chinese guy in the third centuryin the middle of China then he doesn't need me.

That's the big problem inthe movie industry. It's generates a lot of money and attracts a lot of people- agents, producers, distributors - they all see this big cake and try toorganise it. But it's not a cake - it's flowers - it's about the rain and thesun and you can't control it, you just have to wait. I'm always amazed when I'min LA and a company says they've made a deal for 12 films. They spend months todo the deal with lawyers and everything and come up with this number like youcan just bend over and pick up 12 films. At the end of the deal, the guy only hasnine good scripts but he will still do 12 because he has to - it's the deal.And that's how you start to make bad films. It should be the other way round - thatthe film drives everything.

How does EuropaCorp work in Asia'

Sometimes we produce 100%,sometimes we co-produce and other times we're just buying some territories. Thereare no rules in the company - if we like the film then we want to be involvedat the right level. When I saw Ong Bak,it was the first time I had seen Tony Jaa and this director and it was prettyamazing for a first film. I asked which territories were available and theysaid everything apart from Thailand and Japan. So I asked how much and bought it.

We entirely produced The Chinese Botanist's Daughter[directed by Paris-based Chinese director Dai Sijie]. It's Brokeback Mountain with two women - they're not cowboys but they'refarm people - so it's strange that in the same year there are these two filmswith almost the same story.

Dai shot that film in Vietnam because itwouldn't have been cleared by the Chinese censors. Do you think that censorshipis holding back growth of the market here and stifling creativity'

To be honest, when I see howthe French government can't hold 60 million people, I'm quite amazed that theseguys can hold 1.3 billion people. You need some strength and courage to holdthat many people. The repercussions of a little thing are so much bigger here.If you say go right or go left - it's a billion people who go right or left. SoI understand that they have to be much more careful than Switzerland.

American cinema is a greatcinema but basically erased most of the national cinema around the world. Italiancinema is now very small and German cinema is almost dead. The only one that isstill kind of alive is French. So I don't blame them for being careful aboutthe invasion of foreign films.

I would be frustrated andangry if year by year you didn't see any progress. But there is - it's slow -but it's there. Now you can come in, you can talk, you can co-produce, you canhave a French president at the Shanghai film festival. We have to let them go at their ownspeed and do what we can which is showing up and saying 'hey guys we're hereand can do things with you if you want'. At the end of the day it will be morenatural.

French cinema is popular in China and JeanReno and Sophie Marceau are big stars here. Why do you think the Chineseaudience relates to French films'

Well France is an oldcivilisation with a strong culture and China is also an old civilisation - sothere's a natural attraction when it comes to art, literature, architecture,cooking, everything. American cinema is much sweeter - much younger in a waylike the country - so it has a bigger first impact. But after a while it's truethat there is more diversity and substance in French cinema. The first cinema Iloved when I was young was American cinema - it was Walt Disney, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Star Wars. Then you get older and seemore films and start to want something more substantial.

But the independent cinemain the US now is starting to get older and stronger which isthe real danger for European cinema. The big blockbusters are not frighteningbecause they fulfill something that no-one else can do. Nobody has enough moneyto do Superman in Europe, so it's good that the Americans are doing that and doing it very well.But if America starts to make different films, and with moresubstance, then we're in real trouble because that's our field.