Nansun Shi looks back at four decades of taking Chinese films overseas

Screen | 10/21/2019 | Staff
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Hong Kong producer Nansun Shi took a captivated audience of young cinephiles and budding filmmakers through her 38-year career of producing Chinese-language films in a Forum session at Pingyao International Film Festival (PYIFF).

Shi was in Pingyao to receive the ‘International Contribution to Chinese Cinema Award’ for helping give Chinese films an international profile. Her producing credits include the many iconic titles she made through Film Workshop with her former husband Tsui Hark, to the Infernal Affairs series that was remade by Martin Scorsese as The Departed, to festival titles such as A Simple Life (Venice, 2011) and Bends (Cannes, 2013).

PYIFF - Forum - Session - Films - South

In a PYIFF Forum session entitled “How I make films from South to North?”, Shi explained how she started her career in the early 1980s when two studios – Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest – controlled the Hong Kong market and had started exporting kungfu stars like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Shi was one of a small group of producers and directors who broke that duopoly and held their own against Hollywood with the launch of Cinema City. Famous for its collaborative approach to scriptwriting and production, the disruptor of its day produced a string of hit dramas, comedies, spy films and horror movies like Aces Go Places, City On Fire and Esprit D’amour.

“There was a journal called Film Biweekly reporting about the Hong Kong ‘new wave’ and introducing these new directors like John Woo and Tsui Hark,” Shi explained. “The founders were a bit older than me but knew what the audience wanted and could connect the popular taste with the new wave. It was a marriage of art and market – a brand new cinematic language for locally relevant content.”

London - Shi - Cinema - City - Colleagues

As she had studied in London, Shi spoke the best English among her Cinema City colleagues and got the...
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