Listen: Experts Debate the State of Chinese Cinema Ahead of the Oscars

Chen Qiufan, Samantha Culp, and Michael Berry unpack China's relationship to the global box office

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11:56 PM HKT, Thu April 8, 2021

China is having a bit of a movie moment in 2021. Besides being one of the few places in the world where the box office is rebounding and cinemas are fully open, Chinese director Jia Ling just saw her film Hi, Mom become the highest-grossing movie ever by a female director, and four China-related films have received nominations at the Academy Awards.

School bullying drama Better Days, which has been entered via Hong Kong, is up for Best International Feature Film; Over the Moon, the Netflix animation about the goddess Chang-e, is in the Best Animated Feature Film category; Disney’s live action Mulan may have been controversial popularity-wise, but has picked up nods for Best Visual Effects and Best Costume Design; and then there’s Nomadland, making history with Beijing-born Chloé Zhao becoming the first Asian woman director to be nominated for Best Picture and Best Director awards.

On March 26, we invited award-winning sci-fi writer Chen Qiufan, producer Samantha Culp, and Chinese cinema professor Michael Berry — all three of whom contributed to our 100 Films to Understand China project — to talk to us pre-Oscars about the state of Chinese cinema.

We asked them to share their favorite eras of Chinese film, the genre-bending trends of more contemporary movies, and how well cinema in China does on the international awards circuit.

While you’re listening, why not dive into our list of 100 films to watch to better understand China:

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