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Entertainment

The Rise in the Asian Content Phenomenon Paves the way for More Asian Representation in Film

Asian representation in film has slowly been gaining its foothold on a global platform and is definitely moving in an upward trend. This trend can predominantly be seen in some of the more recent Hollywood blockbusters, where Asian representation took center stage and left cultural footprints on the red-carpet. 

One of the more notable movies that is believed to be a breakthrough for Asian representation is the highly-acclaimed Shang-Chi, Marvel’s first film led by an Asian hero and featured a mostly East Asian cast. Other blockbuster hits include Crazy Rich Asians and the upcoming big screen adventure Everything Everywhere All at Once starring Malaysia’s very own Michelle Yeoh. This just solidifies the fact that there is indeed a demand for the much-needed Asian representation in films, where Asians are portrayed as heroes in stories inspired by Chinese folklore, tradition and culture. 

This is certainly a step up from what most are used to growing up, where Asian representations in hit films are either too minor or stereotypical. With the current rise in the Asian content phenomenon, Asian viewers will be able to feel proud of their heritage, culture and tradition as it is more heavily and accurately portrayed in film. For example, if an Asian is cast as a superhero, its impacts can cause a ripple effect onto its Asian viewers who would in turn feel proud of their language, culture and background, instead of feeling ashamed. It also helps sway thoughts that only Western languages, cultures and traditions are cool, as portrayed in most major productions worldwide.

In a bid to shed some light onto Asian representation globally and how to build a global ecosystem for Asian entertainment, a Fireside chat Session titled Casting a Light on Asian Entertainment by iQiyi was held recently. Being Asia’s leading on-demand video streaming service, iQiyi has transformed the Asian content industry and created a platform for local Asian content to go global. Among panelists featured in the chat session included Ge Cheng Zhi, President of Research Institute at iQiyi and Juliana Foo, Head of Content Making at Juita Viden Group who shared their views about the importance of Asian representation and content localisation.

“Right now, the Asian representation in the global market is definitely not as strong as it should be but I’m very happy that we are seeing that it is on the rise thanks to the streaming industry like iQiyi, who has been actively promoting local content in the global stage. This is a very encouraging game changing move in the global entertainment industry because television and movies are filled with powerful images and stories that inform the way we think about different cultures,” said Foo, who added that based on the trend seen recently, foreign audiences have shown a huge interest in Asian cultures.

This thirst for more Asian content and representation in films can be seen as iQiyi’s users worldwide clocked an average of 200 million minutes a day on the platform, with close to 40 million downloads between January and 1st November 2021. With the high number of users comes a burgeoning demand for movies from fans across the region, with a sizable chunk of it including a demand for local productions.

In order to feed the demand for local content, iQiyi has partnered with local production houses in the region including Malaysia, to produce local originals on its platform. With these collaborations, iQiyi is set to bring to life three homegrown original dramas for the first time ever in 2022.The titles are My Ofis, Rampas Cintaku and Sori Naik Lori.

All three of these Malay originals will be produced by renowned and award-winning production teams in Malaysia in a bid to showcase local talent and magnify Malaysia’s culture, heritage and language on a global platform. My Ofis is a light-hearted sitcom that centers around the challenges of Jasper, a rockstar wannabe who had to quit chasing his passion to support his single mother. Rampas Cintaku on the other hand tells the story of an undergraduate student desperate to clear his family’s financial debts from loan sharks but winds up becoming a sugar baby. Meanwhile, Sori Naik Lori sheds some light into a marriage where a lorry driver husband with growing insecurity issues deals with his wife who shot to fame on TikTok.

Foo further shared how platforms like iQiyi is the perfect space for homegrown talents to shine. “It has always been the norm where Malaysian talents had to migrate overseas to either a Western country or China in order to chase their dreams of becoming a famous star. This is a trend we hope to change in the near future because this is the traditional way of achieving international fame. However, with streaming platforms like iQiyi that is focused on investing in local content and bringing it global, this provides a really good platform and opportunity to showcase emerging Malaysian talents and directors beyond the local market,” she said.

She added that as streaming giants like iQiyi continues to produce more localised originals like the three Malaysian productions, it is the perfect opportunity for Malaysian creatives to adapt popular Malaysian novels and transforming them into global shows.

By investing in localised content, it also allows local creatives to tell stories about their own cultures across the globe, making Asian representation on screen more authentic and accurately portrayed. One of the main factors in ensuring authenticity and tone in localised content is the language, as the content must be fully understandable by the audience. In order to bring localised content into the global market, global streamers like iQiyi provides subtitles in their shows to help widen their viewership base. 

An example of a successful iQiyi Chinese series would be the Story of Yanxi Palace that has already been sold to more than 70 countries and regions. Back when the series was all the hype in 2018, it was the first ranked keyword search in the TV show list. Aside from that, iQiyi’s 2021 productions of Moonlight and The Day Becoming You also achieved 50 to 60 million viewership. 

“I think this just shows how Asian content is developing with the help of OTT platforms that has helped fill the traditional gap and challenges faced when taking local productions and making it global. It is thanks to streaming platforms like iQiyi that has allowed Asian producers and creators to have the same speed, ability and efficiency when distributing their content globally,” said Ge.

He further explained that OTT platforms are a good way to spread Asian content but the stories that they choose to make has to be able to translate well both locally and internationally. During the chat, panelists also shared how global consumers today have an appetite for genre-bending shows as it is sort of a refreshing take on stories that are familiar and makes the storytelling approach more creative and captivating.

Luoyang

Recently, iQiyi built its first Chinese Intellectual Property (IP) universe by adapting one of the most acclaimed novel Luoyang by China’s award-winning People’s Literature Prize author Ma Boyong. Luoyang’s film set spans 40,000 square meters, with over 5,000 traditional costumes and jewelry. Not forgetting the 15,000 props made just to re-enact the bustling city of Luoyang during the peak of the Tang Dynasty. 

Starring lead actor Wang Yibo, the series tells a story of three people from different social classes teaming up to investigate a series of mysterious incidents during Empress Wu Zetian’s reign. In a recent press conference, two cast members shared an inside scoop of their characters and some behind the scenes secrets. 

Actress Victoria Song joked that her character in the series is always either trying to save someone or on the way to save another. Meanwhile, co-star Huang Xuan praised Song for her professionalism when she insisted on finishing her scenes despite suffering from an injured ligament. He also recalled an action scene with Song that was very special to him. “The scene incorporated water, land and air elements. It was a very special scene for me,” he said.

When asked if Huang wanted to have some of his character’s traits in real life, he replied that he would want his character’s mastery in martial arts and his loyalty. Song on the other hand wants an older brother because her character’s brother was a very loving one in the series. Huang was also crowned “Best Worker” with his exemplary singing and dancing skills on set, showcasing his skills as a musical actor. 

Luoyang has also announced that an animation series with the same title is set to premiere exclusively worldwide on December 2021.

Luoyang is now available for streaming in 191 countries and regions on the iQiyi International app and http://www.iQ.com.

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