Film producer Wang Luna told China.org.cn that her production company will continue seeking out arthouse films that balance art and commercial value, and have the power to resonate with society.

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A photo of Wang Luna. [Photo provided to China.org.cn]

The producer's latest effort was "Wu Hai," which she said is a sharp and brave take on problems in modern society.

The film, directed by Zhou Ziyang, revolves around a young couple living in Wuhai city who, on their wedding anniversary, struggle to take back control of their life while despairing over love, familial relationships, debt and online usury. The film's cast includes renowned figures such as Huang Xuan, Yang Zishan and Tu Men.

"I fell in love with Zhou's previous work of 'Old Beast' in 2017, and then at a film festival I talked to the director and found we have the same passion for realistic subjects and a like-minded focus on social topics, so we decided to work together," said Wang, who also serves as CEO of Juben Pictures.

"Wu Hai" is a decidedly tragic film, and some viewers have lamented its heavy themes, criticizing it for lacking a touching story and finding it altogether difficult to enjoy or identify with. Nevertheless, the producer said the film is a work by a striking auteur with a unique aesthetic.

"Whether you like it or not, you will still feel its fierce power after leaving the cinema, which will turn into some thinking and reflections on your own life," she said, adding that hopefully, these thoughts and reflections will give rise to larger conversations which ultimately make films like "Wu Hai" more commercially viable.

"Wu Hai" pushes audiences to confront a range of problems in today's society such as domestic issues, as well as borrowing money from dubious lenders to meet an excessive and grandiose lifestyle.

"The director wants to explore these typical social problems. Do young people prefer money over love? In extreme cases, does the situation reflect what's happening in the film? Are we standing on the edge of distortion of humanity? We hope that 'Wu Hai' can be a warning to society," Wang said.

When it was released earlier this year, "Wu Hai" saw a lackluster box office performance due to a myriad of factors including theatre closures following resurgences of COVID-19 across the country – not least of which in Inner Mongolia where the film was shot – as well as its release alongside much larger blockbusters such as the new James Bond film "No Time to Die." As such, "Wu Hai" has only earned 14.77 million yuan to date.

That, however, is not enough to discourage Wang and her team. "Frankly speaking, we felt some setbacks. But in the troubled time, any little bit of support is especially warm and powerful for us. We are still positive and try our best. I believe it can also convey some warmth to all filmmakers at the moment."

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A poster for the arthouse film "Wu Hai." [Image courtesy of Juben Pictures]

The producer said they will continue to bring the film to various festivals both at home and abroad. She also said she witnessed the creative power and strength of the film's relatively young cast and crew. For instance, Wang noted that actor Huang Xuan, who also served as a producer for the film, has injected much positive energy into the project.

Speaking on the development of Chinese arthouse films, Wang said, "we want to produce high-quality work with certain commercial value and art, and such works should explore serious subjects and agendas, while still being enjoyable and appreciated by the audience. There are many such excellent films on the market, with genre styles, and realism at their core. Many peers are working toward the same direction along with us and it will bring hope to China's film industry under the pandemic."