SHANGHAI – The Chinese movie industry is growing more interested in telling international stories, a situation that Spain seeks to monetize at international festivals such as the one currently underway in Shanghai, where the Iberian country is promoting itself as an ideal destination for filming.
The architecture of Gaudi in Barcelona, the flamenco culture of Andalucia and long sunny days are some of the major attractions for the Chinese, Spain Film Commission representative Pedro Barbadillo told EFE.
“Barcelona is a big attraction for the Chinese people in general, and Andalucia too. We are detecting a great interest in architectural spaces, and some of the popular Spanish festivals such as San Fermin or Las Fallas, as well as modern Spain, football and gastronomy – things well-known here,” he said.
Barbadillo, who is also the director of the Mallorca Film Commission, is currently taking part in the Film Market at the Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF), one of the most important industry events in the country.
The aim is to get more Chinese directors and producers to choose Spain for filming, given that although “in recent years China has co-produced and filmed mainly with the United States, now they are very open to European producers.”
“They are substituting Chinese-American international co-productions with Chinese-European ones, partly due to the trade war between the two powers,” said Barbadillo.
During the film festival, he has been meeting with some 10 producers a day and has noted that “there is a lot of interest in opening co-productions and shooting outside their country,” and regarding Spain, there is “a huge interest given the success Spanish films such as those of Oriol Paulo have enjoyed.”
Paulo, from Barcelona, broke records with his first film released in China, “Contratiempo” (The Invisible Guest) in 2017, as it raked in around $29 million.
In 2019, another of his movies, “Durante la Tormenta” (Mirage), became the third-most watched by the Chinese public in its first weekend of screening in cinemas, with 1.5 million viewers.
Through his movies, Paulo has drawn attention to Spain as a cinematic country, which is reflected this year at SIFF where 15 Spanish films are being screened. Among them are “Dolor y Gloria” (Pain and Glory) by Pedro Almodovar and “El Reino” (The Candidate) by Rodrigo Sorogoyen.
Spanish television has also been tasting success. Last weekend, the creators of the series “Presunto Culpable” (Presumed Guilty) received the award for best foreign TV series at the 25th edition of SIFF, a prize won in the past by the likes of “Game of Thrones” and “Breaking Bad.”
“Spanish films do well here. The stories reach the Chinese people and this makes them very open to Chinese projects that can be shot in Spain or Spanish ones that can be distributed in China. This is a moment of special interest,” Barbadillo said.
Head of international business for Beijing Cloudwood Culture Media, Zixi Zhang, told EFE that “Spanish features and series are becoming more and more attractive for the Chinese audience, and producers and distributors are really seeking for the next release.”
Executive producer Peter Hu, who had the opportunity to shoot in Spain, said: “Our shooting in Barcelona and Zaragoza was a really good experience, and we discovered one of the most amazing deserts in Europe in Los Monegros.”
In recent years, Barbadillo said, “10 or 12 Chinese films and a few television programs have been shot on Spanish soil.” Right now, “Spain Passion,” a series of stories from Spain for the Chinese market, is being recorded.
However, these are just the first steps. “This is very little, it has only begun. We are at the beginning of an age that can be very interesting. Never in history have so many movies and so many series been produced. There is a strong demand for content and Spain is very well-positioned,” said Barbadillo.
He underlined that Spain’s advantages lay in the country having a “variety of locations, with medieval, Arabic and modern architectures, with natural landscapes ranging from tropical forests in the Canaries to the desert. Moreover, it has a highly developed and well regarded professional sector.”
All of this comes with tax incentives for filming, which are now “in line with that of other European countries.” Tax deductions range from 20 percent at the general level to 35 percent in Navarra and 40 percent in the Canary Islands.