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  • Christian Hain

The Berlinale Trilogy, A Spinoff – The Interview, starring Xu Haofeng

(Berlin.) And now for something completely different... During this year’s Berlinale, the Asian Film & Television Promotion (AFTP), and the Beijing Film Academy and Actor Committee of the China Radio and Television Association (CRTA) conjointly organized Asian Briliant Stars, a separate competition not part of the festival, but held in close cooperation with the European Film Market (EFM), a trade fair that is indeed very much linked to Berlinale. We’ve had the occasion to talk with Mr Xu Haofeng, the laureate of the Asian Brilliant Star for Best Director.

Mr Xu Haofeng is famous for Martial Arts movies, production of his latest œuvre The Hidden Sword has recently been completed. It's now awaiting release in China and, hopefully, worldwide.

(World of Arts Magazine:) “First of all, congratulations on winning the award for best director at Asian Brilliant Stars! What does this mean to you, and how did you like the event that was held for the first time this year?”

(Xu Haofeng:) “It means more fame for me, I can ask the producer for more money now...” (laughs; so do the representatives of his production company) “Really, getting an award is very useful for to negotiate better conditions of shooting for my next film. Getting more money!”

(wartsmagazine:) “The Martial Arts film has been very popular all around the world many years ago, everybody still knows the legendary Bruce Lee, and much later, there was the immense success of Jackie Chan. But it seems, the Western audience has lost interest in the genre over the past years. How do you think this can be changed again - will there be a closer cooperation between Hollywood and China, doing more films together, for example? What do you think in general about the future of the local industries, a fierce competition, or an ever increasing cooperation?

(XH:) “The farther away from Hollywood, the better! Because otherwise you would not only give away your techniques, but it would hurt the creation and the development of your own film industry. I witnessed the past ten years, and that’s what happened with Hollywood and Chinese films.”

(wartsmagazine:) “And yet there have been considerable Chinese investments in the American movie industry, they are buying whole studios?”

(XH:) “We can learn from Hollywood how to earn money, we recognize their skills to make successful movies. But I don’t agree with their way of storytelling, I don’t like Hollywood’s judgements on what will be a box office hit and what will not. I don’t agree with them on what is a good commercial movie. Furthermore, in the nineteen nineties, the Japanese also bought Hollywood studios, and look where their film industry is today. It didn’t help them, they could not benefit.”

(wartsmagazine:) “Mr Haofeng, you are known for being a director who does not like special effects, at least we’ve read to much, and Martial Arts in general is a very 'hands on' film genre. It’s about human skills. But today, everybody is talking about animations, about CGI – Will people in future still want to watch human Martial Arts films, or will it evolve into something like a video game, Mortal Kombat without a player, and you’ll become a programmer?

(XH:) “If you watch films with a strong accent on special effects of ten years ago, they look already old, the technique is outdated, they can’t convince anymore. The human eye is very sensitive in this respect. In Martial Arts, it’s all about the experience in search of beauty. You can do slow pace for the moves, or you can do quick moves, there are so many choices to make! If you do it all with SFX, you don’t have as much time to explore these possibilities. The more SFX, the less there is to explore.

(wartsmagazine:) “For the ‘exploration of beauty’, for a good film, what matters the more to you, in The Hidden Sword, and in general – is it the story or the choreography of the fights?”

(XH:) “Both are important, script and choreography. In traditional Martial Arts movies, the characters are very basic, very simple. But I take inspiration from Chinese literature to try and change this. The Chinese critics recognize this innovative approach to Martial Arts films, and often praise me for it.”

(wartsmagazine:) “My final question for today: Did you have any time to watch the films of Berlinale, have you seen something you like?

(XH:) “Unfortunately, I arrived only last night, so I did not have the time yet!”

And thus closes our interview. I admit the last question was not exactly smart, given he only speaks Chinese, and there are hardly any Chinese films at Berlinale. At least, I refrained from asking about the links between Martial Arts and the Chinese success in business.

(NOTE: the interview was conducted with the help of a translator.)

World of Arts Magazine - contemporary art criticism



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