Globalisation and Transnational Cinema: Co-productions between China and Hollywood

Written by Qiumeng Wang

“The Americans have colonized our subconscious. (Wenders , 1991, p.98)”

International film co-productions reflect the integrations of culture and economy. As a part of globalisation, co-productions provide an approach to financing and gathering resources from participating countries for a film project.

“Co-productions were initially perceived to enhance collaboration between countries with small production industries which would be able to pool resources and compete in an international market (Taylor, 1995, p. 414).”

“Today co-productions are less about culturally relevant materials, but focus exclusively on popular genres, often simulating Hollywood productions. (Baltruschat, 2002, p2)”

With the development of globalisation in film industry, international cooperation is more than the way of filming in other countries, but represents the penetration of different values and the involvement of financial as well as political issue. Globalisation broadens the customers and markets, and increased profits, but it also undermines national identity. To cater to larger audiences and cross the boundaries in geography and culture, a film has to find a more universal subject that can be received by different people but obeys director’s original intention and even loses the national characteristics. However, it is difficult to balance two sides.

In famous Chinese director Yimou Zhang’s latest work, The Great Wall (2016), the cooperation between Chinese film industry and Hollywood reached a deeper level.

It is the first international film led by Chinese film companies. In the past, Hollywood film industry or saying American companies is the leader in co-produced films (IFeng News). Co-production is just a tool to open a channel and foreign producers can escape from competing for the limited quota of importing foreign films. For those films, the creators are not Chinese. Chinese elements and Chinese actors (actress) played as a trivial part in those films. In the Great Wall, not only the director, most roles are performed by Chinese. This film is even totally in English. Chinese film companies also participated in its investment, collaborating with Hollywood tycoons. Obviously, it film is meaningful in the aspect of cooperation with Hollywood film industry. This film reveals the fact that the importance of Chinese film market is increasing and the powers of Chinese film companies are growing. Making achievements in Chinese market is not as easy as interjecting several Chinese elements and picking up one or two Chinese actresses. On the other hand, this film also shows China’s ambition to export their value and culture to abroad.

However, compared with the success of Yimou Zhang’s Hero (2002), the performance of The Great Wall is not satisfactory. Zhang failed to maintain his high reputation from audiences in this film, and in the USA it is not as popular as Hero. To answer this, we have to trace back to the stereotype and national identity that every transnational cinema has to face during film globalisation.

“Accepting foreign art films is easier than embracing foreign commercial films. (Zhou & Han, 2017)”

Actually, I can only partially agree with above statement. In many cases, it is because art films are more “national” that they meet with audiences’ expectation. Audiences can easily find images they are familiar with about a foreign nation in art films. For Indian films, people tend to see poorness and clouded trains. For Chinese films, restrict government power and freedom forbidden is their first impression.And in this case,  Hero is more “Chinese” than “The Great Wall”. In The Great Wall, fighting again monsters is legendary but audience can hardly apprehend why it has to happen in ancient China. Seemingly every value and model of storytelling follow the pattern of  Hollywood films, but it is weird to see them appearing in a Chine commercial film. In other word, this film is too Hollywood to be a Chinese film.

In globalisation, transnational film is prevalent. However, there is no transnational film can fully transcend the  boundary of nation and abandon their national identity.

Official Trailer (The Great Wall)



Baltruschat, D., 2002. Globalization and International TV and film co-productions: In search of new narratives. Media in Transition, 2, pp.10-12.

Fenghuanghao, 2017, Breaking through of Chinese Elements, but co-production is still in hardship. IFeng News. Access from

Han, F.& Zhou, Z, 2017, Failed in North America, The Great Wall. Access from

Rosen, S., 2003. Hollywood, Globalization and Film Markets in Asia: Lessons for China?. University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Taylor, P.W. (1995). Co-productionsóContent and Change: International Television in the Americas. Canadian Journal of Communication, 20 (2): 411ñ416.

Trailer of The Great Wall (YouTube)

Wenders, W., 1991. The Logic of Images: Essays and Conversations. Faber.



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