Britain to expand cooperation with China's film market

The 69th British Academy Film Awards were held in London on Feb 14 and broadcast in more than 200 countries including China.

In 2015, the awards presentation was officially shown for the first time on the Chinese mainland through Youku, among the country's major streaming websites.

Amanda Berry, chief executive of British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the body behind the awards, says as her organization seeks to expand cooperation with geographic regions outside the West, it would look to China, the world's second-largest film market, as a likely partner.

In March last year, Britain's Prince William, who is also president of BAFTA, led delegates to a visit of Shanghai for the Great Festival of Creativity, an expo organized by the British and Chinese governments to promote UK's creative industry. Berry was on that team.

When President Xi Jinping visited the United Kingdom in October, Prince William had presented him a gift on behalf of the academy to symbolize ties between his country and China.

"As our industry becomes more global, there will be more opportunities for creativity and innovation," Berry tells China Daily in an interview over the phone from London. "Lots of people in China are aware of the Oscars, and we'll work hard to raise the profile of not only BAFTA but the whole British film industry."

BAFTA also had British makeup artist Naomi Donne share her experiences of working in the film industry with Chinese students in Beijing last year.

Berry says hosting training programs in China with experts from the British film industry would be an important step toward academic exchanges on cinema between the two countries.

BAFTA and the Beijing Film Academy signed an agreement in December, confirming their intention for further collaboration between British and Chinese students, as well as professionals.

This year, BAFTA also launched its scholarship program for Chinese mainland students, giving them up to $28,000 in tuition fees and $14,000 for individual expenses. The program, which is available in Hong Kong since 2014, attempts to offer Chinese students the chance to study film, TV and related disciplines in the UK.

The number of students to be enrolled to the program will be decided based on the skills they present, Berry says.

Prior to 2001, the BAFTA ceremonies were held in April mixing with TV awards, but Berry decided to move it to February ahead of the Oscars in the United States.

"From that change, everything started to happen," she recalls.

For example, BAFTA lacked the funds and was only broadcast in the UK before Berry, a former TV producer, took up the academy job.

But she isn't satisfied with the British film awards being seen by many moviegoers around the world as a curtain raiser to the Oscars.

"It's much shorter," Berry says jokingly when referring to the difference between the two award ceremonies.

"When the Oscars nominate as many as 10 films for the best pictures award, we decide not to do that. Instead, we set an independent category for outstanding British films whose winners can also compete for the best film award," she adds.

Berry cites history, talent and the "British sense of humor" as elements that make the UK film industry different from the rest of the world. That probably also explains why the criteria for BAFTA is different from Hollywood.

In recent years, though some best film award winners at BAFTA also received top honors at the Oscars, there have been exceptions. For example, BAFTA winner The Queen (2006), which is a "very British" film, according to Berry, didn't convince the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to name it the best film.

"We don't want to be a carbon copy (of the Oscars) though it's an international ceremony," she says, adding that the close ties between Hollywood and British cinema often make it difficult for people not to view the two events with similar expectations.

"People may consider many films to be American, but many people behind the films are actually British and they are made in the UK."

Berry also says she hopes there would be cinematic coproductions between China and the UK, and that people from the two countries have been working together to find stories.

"The booming Chinese film market gives opportunities to British filmmakers to reach a much larger audience."

Chinese director Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubine won the best film award in the foreign language category at the 1993 BAFTA ceremony. Zhang Yimou's To Live won the same award a year later. But in recent times, Chinese faces haven't been seen among nominees at the same awards.

It would be wonderful if Chinese scholars studying in the UK or British scholars studying in China are recognized by BAFTA, says Berry.

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