An artistic high kick over a box-office stumble

By Xu Fan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-05-12 10:17:22

An artistic high kick over a box-office stumble

Xu Haofeng wins the best picture award at the Beijing College Student Film Festival.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Xu Haofeng appeared at peace rather than excited the moment he won the best picture award at the 23rd Beijing College Student Film Festival on Sunday.

The prize proves the artistic value of a flick that flopped commercially.

"I felt so sorry Master failed to make ends meet," the martial-arts film director said in his acceptance speech at the Beijing Olympic Sports Center.

"I hope this award offers some consolation (to the financiers), and that you'll have confidence to invest in my next film."

Xu's latest directorial work beat Mr Six, starring Feng Xiaogang, and three other domestic titles to claim the festival's highest honor.

The film is about a Wingchun school practitioner's ambitious journey to establish his reputation in what was then northern China's martial arts hub, Tianjin. But he discovers different powers use him as a pawn along the way.

Many film fans hailed the award as an overdue recognition for Xu, who has imbued the struggling martial arts genre with innovation.

While the films traditionally feature dizzying fight scenes and fantastical moves, Xu's movies employ simple and real moves.

But his knowledge of weapons, schools and history have failed to hit the spot in the box office fight, where special effects and lowbrow laughs bring in big bucks.

The film was released last year to critical acclaim. It scored 8.1 points out of 10 on the country's most popular movie-review site, But it only earned 55 million yuan ($8.46 million).

It's a similar story for many prizewinning works.

Actor Chen Jianbin's directorial debut A Fool (jury award), Jia Zhangke's Mountains May Depart (best director), and the Tibetan movies Tharlo (best art-house picture) and River (best new rising star) have faced the same situation.

These films-despite bringing in limited box-office receipts-are youth hits.

More than 3,000 college students participated in the awards ceremony. A much larger number watched the live broadcast on CCTV 6, China's most watched film channel.

This may signal hope for directors like Xu.

The primary demographic of Chinese filmgoers were born in the 1990s, China Film Association figures show. They account for 17 percent of the population-and 42 percent of last year's box office.

While the festival was only for college students, it featured a number of celebrities.

Feng Xiaogang, who won the best actor award for his performance as a Beijing hoodlum in Mr Six, and Go Away, Mr Tumor's lead actress Bai Baihe, who won best actress, were among the ceremony's most spotlighted stars.

Others included Taiwan singer-actor-director Alec Su, who won "the director most welcomed by students", and actor Li Chen, who took "the actor most welcomed by students".

More than 300 domestic movies released in 2015 competed for the main awards of the annual festival, staged by Beijing Normal University and the capital's top movie regulator.

The event also received more than 4,000 original films and 15,000 photographs submitted by students.

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