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Can film critics lower the quality of Chinese films?

Chinese film critic websites were at the center of a media storm this week. The state-run newspaper People’s Daily published an op-ed stating that film critic websites are hindering the development of Chinese films, specifically naming popular film critic websites, Douban and Maoyan.

“Douban”, meaning soybean valve and “Maoyan” meaning “cat eyes” in Mandarin, have attracted millions of users, in particular young Chinese netizens. The websites have an open film grading system, which can be contributed by its users. There is currently no public film grading system in China. Before watching a film, users of Douban and Maoyan will read the film gradings online first before they watch it in the cinemas.

“How do we improve the quality of Chinese films? Just keep film critics’ mouths shut, ” said a Douban user sarcastically in response.

The aftermath was huge. Maoyan closed its professional film grading column, which published film grading stories written by professional directors and actors. As for Douban, the founder wrote a long article explaining how their grading system worked, and to emphasize that there was no intention to hinder “the development of Chinese films”.

However, this “hindrance” claim is the opposite in reality. Many public movies fail to meet viewers’ expectations this year. The Great Wall, directed by famous director Zhang Yimou, only scored 4.9 out of 10 on Douban. This film even had huge Hollywood star power with Matt Damon as the lead actor. It also had a filming budget of US$ 1.5 billion. Personally, I do not get the storyline despite its massive scale and special film effects. For that, I guess it was an investment well spent. Another Chinese movie, “See You Tomorrow”, is a love story. Unfortunately, the two main actors’ flawless faces were not incentive enough for me to finish watching the movie. It was only given a rating of 3.5 points on Douban.


In my opinion, I do not think the poor ratings quality of the films is caused by critics. Xi Po, a famous critic, also feels the same way. Xi said that the terrible box-office earnings of Chinese films this year might be the reason why the state paper has blamed film critics. In 2015, the box-office revenue of Chinese films was RMB 437 billion in total. In 2016, the earnings increased slightly to RMB 441 billion. Despite an improvement in revenue, the film industry has failed to meet its target of raking in RMB 600 billion this year.

“There are various reasons why this goal was not achieved, but hushing the critics seems to be first on the agenda,” said Xi.

Last but not least, I leave you with a quote from world famous director Ang Lee on his thoughts about Chinese cinema.

“This is the start of the golden age so please seize this opportunity and create a virtual cycle. It’s quite natural to get bigger, but film is all about culture, so we have to be patient.”

(Top Photo from Baidu Images)

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