The 2019 Cannes Film Festival wrapped up on Saturday, May 25 after a week and a half of floppy sunhats, celebrity sightings and, of course, films. Although none of the Chinese films that participated came away with any awards, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho represented Asia in winning the Palme d’Or for his dark comedy, Parasite.
While many media outlets have already turned their eyes towards the Academy Awards, hypothesizing on which of the films shown over the course of the festival will nab nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards in February 2020, we‘ve been wondering about which films will land a highly coveted spot in Chinese cinemas.
Last year, Chinese film distributors made a huge splash at Cannes Film Festival, buying up rights to a number of high-profile films and provoking quotes such as this one from Indian producer Prasad Shetty: “I would argue that China is now the most diverse and mature film market in the world.”
Image via Dangmai Films/IMDB
Of the films shown at Cannes last year, a total of six have been brought to Chinese cinema screens since: Ash is Purest Love, Capernaum, Shoplifters, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Solo: A Star War’s Story and The Pluto Moment. At least three other films – Everybody Knows, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote and Cold War – had their rights bought by Chinese distributors, but have yet to be released in cinemas in China.
Only one film featured at Cannes Film Festival in 2017, Chinese film Walking Past the Future, was released in cinemas around The Middle Kingdom.
While three of the films from 2018 (Ash is Purest Love, Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Pluto Moment) were Chinese and Solo: A Star Wars Story was a huge blockbuster film by Disney, the other buy-ins were less predictable.
As it turned out, Road Pictures (China’s answer to A24 Pictures) nabbed a trio of eventual Oscar nominees in Japanese Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters, Lebanese coming-of-age drama Capernaum and Russian historical drama Cold War at last year’s festival. The first two have already been released in China and have proven to have been much more successful than initially thought.
Image via Sunnyland Film/IMDB
So it follows that the films that appeared at 2019’s festival that will likely end up on silver screens in the Middle Kingdom should be 1) Chinese 2) Blockbusters or 3) Critically successful or award-winning.
Pretty obvious, huh?
With that being said, we’re likely to see Diao Yinan’s The Wild Goose Lake hit our screens. Director Zu Feng’s first feature, Summer of Changsha, remains a curious affair, however, as the film debuted at Cannes without censor approval. In addition, Taiwanese filmmaker Midi Z’s psychological thriller about stardom and sanity, Nina Wu, has already been hitting headlines.
Changing lanes, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood strikes us as being the blockbuster of the bunch this year. According to Variety, China’s Bona Film Group confirmed that they had boarded the film in January as an investor, opening up the possibility of the group managing Chinese distribution for Tarantino’s 10th feature film as director.
Image via Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)/IMDB
At the beginning of May, Chinese distributor Time-In-Portrait Entertainment picked up the distribution rights to three films going up against the likes of Parasite for the Palme d’Or: Ken Loach-directed drama Sorry We Missed You, French crime drama Oh Mercy! and French Canadian film It Must Be Heaven. Time-In-Portrait boarded four films at Cannes last year, none of which got a theatrical release, but instead made the rounds of film festivals. The Beijing-based distributors are hopeful that one of the three films they boarded this year will make it to cinema screens.
As of yet, no Chinese buyer for South Korean Palme d’Or winner, Parasite, has been announced. Two of the other award winners during this year’s festival, Senegalese Grand Prix winner Atlantics by Mati Diop and Cannes Critics’ Week Award Winner I Lost My Body have had their global distribution rights picked up by Netflix, although neither of those deals include a release for China.
If you want to stay up-to-date on the foreign films hitting Chinese cinema screens every month, make sure to check out our month-by-month guide to new movie releases.
Additional reporting by Yihan Chen
[Cover image via Memento/IMDB]