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News  » The rise of Asian fa...

The rise of Asian factual production

19 February 2018

The continent is increasingly open to co-pros, says Julian Chou-Lambert

As China ushers in the Year of the Dog, it can also toast its new silk road, the biggest infrastructure project the world has ever seen, while Singapore is ever-closer to becoming the world’s first ‘smart nation’. Meanwhile, North and South Korea’s ‘Peace Games’ may be a small step in the right direction.

As the world’s largest continent continues to power through the 21st ‘Asian Century’, it can be difficult for those of us based outside Asia to make sense of these important events, which more often than not have some connection with our own history, and/or future (Brexit angst, anyone?).

Enter Asia’s vast and rapidly-growing abundance of factual production and broadcasting talent. Several countries across the region are expanding from a base of highly-developed domestic production towards global ambitions, and are ever more open to international co-productions.

China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ policy covers not only infrastructure, but media too, as seen in the rapid expansion of global newscaster CGTN, and continuing co-pros, despite ever changing SAPPRFT regulations (and acronyms).

Recent TVF UK-China projects include Depictograph China/Outdoor UK special for Discovery, Flying the Great Wall, the first ever aerial journey across the entire wall, and Secret China, a six-part CCTV series exploring hidden Chinese cultures, produced by CICC China and Meridian Line UK.

Chinese culture is under the lens across the wider region, with Media Stockade Australia’s new feature Double Happiness: China’s Wedding Photo Revolution, a deep dive into China’s multi-billion dollar wedding photography phenomenon commissioned by Mandy Chang, slated to air later this year on ABC Arts.

Singapore, especially through its Asia-Pacific wide newscaster Channel NewsAsia, is hitting ever-greater heights. With its economic clout, cultural and linguistic mix, and history as a former colony, Singapore has a unique viewpoint on Asian and global affairs.

Government-run Mediacorp’s production arm’s latest TVF offerings for channel CNA include landmark eight-part history series The Asian Century, which explores seminal moments from North Korea’s nuclear bomb to Partition in India and the death of Mao in China, and the five-part Power and Piety, in which British-Pakistani Bafta-nominated reporter Mobeen Azhar explores the relationship between religion and conflict, from Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis to Islamic fundamentalism in the UK.

A diversity of talent and global scope is also prevalent in 14-part series, The New Silk Road, which travels from China to Iran examining the real effects of China’s expansionism, and Very! Productions’ eight-parter Smart Cities, in which Malaysian-British eco-architect Jason Pomeroy explores the future of urban living.

Over two episodes, China on Film, narrated by filmmaker Christopher Doyle and co-produced with the BFI and UK/Singapore-based Make Productions, showcases the very first films made in China, which were recently found in a basement in the North of England.

Japan, one of Asia’s most established markets, is known for its innovative formats and advanced broadcasting technology, and specialist factual output is a priority.

Public broadcaster NHK’s ambitious series Century on Film covers the whole of 20th-century world history, and single doc Hokusai: Old Man Crazy to Paint, the first NHK/BBC collaboration with the British Museum, which aired in the UK on BBC4, was shot in pioneering 8K Ultra HD video.

Opportunities abound further across the continent, with powerhouses including India, Korea, and Thailand all producing increasingly internationally-appealing factual. With local, regional and international SVODs also competing for a slice of the pie, starting with drama but inevitably also considering factual, there’s never been a more exciting time to get on board with the Asian Century.

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