China’s steady ascension to world leader continues. No, not in tech or energy (though that argument can be made) but in filmmaking. While this growth may accompany concern in other industries, it has a highly beneficial effect in film by providing eager viewers and opportunities for more creative professionals to realize their aspirations. There’s a result that is not always equal in domestic and foreign markets. Consider World of Warcraft which earned $156 million in its first weekend on screens in China but earned a less impressive $25 million during its opening weekend in the US. The lesson here is that opportunities previously unavailable are presented for the entire film community. We currently see many foreign production professionals in front of and behind the camera for feature films in China. Even productions like the culturally authentic feature film Underset includes noted talent from other countries in the credit scroll, attesting to the fact that filmmaking is becoming increasingly “border free”…and that’s a very good thing for everyone, including the public.
Just as much as economic factors, open communication between artistic communities of different countries provide an exchange of fresh story ideas to inspire both sides. While the nucleus of Underset’s plot is not unheard of in the US, the pace and “creative dialect” creates a highly different sensibility that is quite intriguing. The story takes place in the Republic of China where Bai Xiuying`s husband (Zhang Qianyue) has been killed under mysterious circumstances. Unwilling to accept what she is told, she investigates. A hotel, a female corpse, and a group of civilians spark an unexpected story, revealing the helplessness of much of society intertwined in the social reality of this era.
Director Junlin Wang worked with co-producers Alex Zhang and Sholpan Murabuldayeva on this multimillion dollar production. This producing role was so vital that he was willing to enlist international talent to ensure the film would achieve his visions, ala the inclusion of Murabuldayeva. What’s extraordinary about the film, besides the suspense, is the integration of influences from both China and Hollywood in the way the story is told. The charm that is inherent in Chinese cinema has been augmented with splashes of western influences. The result is Darwinian. Accolades from the NYC Indie Film Awards, the European Independent Film Awards, and the Roma Movie Awards are but a few of the many which Underset has received. Specifically, Sholpan’s work on award-winning films Pearl and the psychological/horror Knightfall bring a Tinsletown sensibility to the inner workings of Underset. Her impact on the film was meaningful and beneficial for both parties. She relates, “Not being from China, it was paramount for me to do my research about China, Chinese culture, and the Chinese people in order to sincerely understand the tone of this story. A producer needs to understand the story and the characters on an unspoken level. China is a big and great country with an amazing film industry. For many of us in the community, working internationally means not only more work but also working on the productions which you enjoy and connect with the most.”