As part of the push to raise awareness of the nation’s cultural diversity, China plans to produce a series of dozens of films featuring ethnic themes and has already attracted US$49m in private capital to make this a reality. The project is supported by the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, according to China Backs Niche Films (behind paywall) in the South China Morning Post.
The first in the series, soon to be released, is entitled Guard (德吉德):
In the upcoming film Deegide [Guard], a Mongolian woman herder struggles to keep her family and their sheep alive as a spring snowstorm descends upon the plains, threatening them with starvation. She gets no help from her husband, a depressive alcoholic who is lost without the horses and lush meadows his father knew.
The film explores the will to life against a nature that is both the sole provider and the greatest danger to survival. The film closes with the titular Deegide taking her husband, who has fallen ill, to a hospital in Beijing. The treatment will bankrupt the family, but as she embarks on the journey, Deegide shows not defeat but tested resolve.
However, the article goes on to point out that such films—more than 200 have reportedly been shot since the 1980s—have traditionally been better received overseas than in China proper. For example, The Story of the Weeping Camel, launched in 2003, earned US$656,000 in China, and US$54m overseas (conversion using today’s rates).
But in a country where access to modern cinemas is still controlled by the state, the new series will have one advantage that would be the envy of Hollywood movie moguls: all the films in the new ethnic-themed series are guaranteed first run at 48 leading cinemas across China, according to Deegide director Zhang Zhiqiang (章治强).