China's 'lion dance' animation comedy lauded despite tepid earnings


The film "I Am What I Am" has integrated the "lion dance" culture into a story of teenagers' dream pursuit.[Photo/Mtime]

Despite moderate box office gains since its opening on Dec 17, Chinese animation comedy "I Am What I Am" continues to grab headlines and receive wide applause.

It has been hailed for not only bringing "lion dance," a folk art belonging to China's intangible cultural heritage, to the big screen but also for its realistic, worldly approach.

This makes sense especially because major animated titles released in recent years, including "Ne Zha," "Jiang Ziya: Legend of Deification" and "White Snake," are mostly based on ancient mythology.

Unfolding from a brief introduction to lion dance, a centuries-old Chinese folk dance mostly performed to celebrate Lunar New Year, the movie follows an underdog teenager in Guangdong, southern China, as he joins hands with two friends to pursue a dream against all odds -- becoming the best lion dance performer.


A snapshot from the film "I Am What I Am".[Photo/Mtime]

Rao Shuguang, president of the China Film Critics Association, in an interview with Xinhua, said the "down-to-earth" film may signal a change of direction in Chinese animated filmmaking by drawing more inspiration from ordinary people struggling to make miracles happen in daily life, instead of gods in mythology stories.

The film has integrated the "lion dance" culture into a story of teenagers' dream pursuit, which reflects the charm of Chinese culture and embodies the spirit of the nation, says a comment by state broadcaster CCTV.

Discussion about the importance of "I Am What I Am" in injecting new vitality into Chinese animated films has been running high on social media platforms.

"Whether it's a huge commercial success or not, this film represents a great foray into exploring reality-themed Chinese animated film production," reads a Weibo post.

Directed by Sun Haipeng, the comedy currently boasts a rating of 8.4 out of 10 on review platform Douban, with a total box office revenue of about 86 million yuan ($13.5 million) as of Friday.

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