China’s flourishing film and television industry has seen a remarkable uptick in global interest, marked by a burgeoning trend where classic Chinese titles are being revamped for international audiences. This surge in adaptations highlights the broadening influence of China’s cultural exports and signifies a newfound global appreciation for its unique storytelling.
Recent Hollywood remakes, like that of the time-travel comedy “Hi, Mom”, and Japan’s rendition of the suspenseful drama “The Bad Kids” titled “Gold Boy”, underscore this emerging trend. “Hi, Mom”, released during the 2021 Chinese New Year holiday, skyrocketed to become China’s third-highest grossing film, amassing a staggering 54.13 billion yuan ($7.40 billion). Its widespread acclaim can be linked to its dexterous narrative that melds time-travel, comedy, nostalgia, and the depth of familial bonds. The film’s female-centric perspective particularly struck a chord during a period where such narratives were in the spotlight.
“The Bad Kids”, with its riveting storyline, secured an impressive 8.8 rating on China’s prominent media review platform, Douban. This achievement underscores the quality of content Chinese creators are producing.
The global reimagination of Chinese originals isn’t just a testament to their initial success. Investors see remakes as a strategic move to amplify viewership and minimize risks. A case in point is “Sheep Without a Shepherd”, a reimagining of the Indian blockbuster “Drishyam”. Its release in China saw overwhelming success, and the original too found an audience in Chinese theaters, given its acclaim.
Yet, box office triumphs aren’t the sole motivation behind these adaptations. What makes these Chinese titles universally appealing is the deeply-rooted themes they present. Many of these stories embody values deriving from China’s age-old traditions, reflecting tenets like benevolence, righteousness, and trustworthiness, reminiscent of Confucianism. Such universal themes ensure their narratives resonate beyond cultural confines.
Hollywood’s attraction to “Hi, Mom”, for instance, can be attributed to its nuanced portrayal of familial love, female emotions, and nostalgia – sentiments that transcend borders. Similarly, Japan, with its rich history of crime novels, saw in “The Bad Kids” an opportunity to delve into the intricate facets of human nature juxtaposed against a criminal backdrop.
Another illustrative example is the Chinese drama “Go Ahead”, poised for a South Korean remake. Echoing the vibes of South Korea’s “Reply 1988”, “Go Ahead” celebrates familial love through the lens of three individuals bound by fate, emphasizing the universality of family dynamics.
The international reinterpretation of Chinese content, spanning films, TV series, and animations, is no longer a rarity but a norm. For instance, the poignant Chinese film “Soul Mate” found a new avatar in South Korea as “Soulmate”, while the comedic “Goodbye Mr. Loser” amused Malaysian audiences with its localized version. Series like “Go Princess Go”, “Find Yourself”, and “My Heroic Husband” are either already adapted or are in the pipeline for international makeovers.
At the heart of this rising trend is the reflection of core human values inherent in Chinese culture. As global communities grapple with challenges like anti-globalization sentiments, such universally relatable stories present a bridge, fostering cultural understanding and appreciation.