On the afternoon of November 21st, the Forum on Cross-Culture: Documentary Production and Distribution was presented by the Golden Tree International Documentary Festival's Beijing Special Event, under the guidance of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Radio and Television, in conference room 4, Beijing Exhibition Hall. This Forum was held both online and on-site and was hosted by documentary filmmaker, Yu Ming, a post-doctoral fellow in Film Science, and Professor at the School of Art and Media at Beijing Normal University.

There were five guests taking part in the forum: Vikram Channa, Vice President, Discovery Media Group; Matthew Springford, Executive Producer, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC Studios); Liz McLeod, Meridian Lines Film Producer; Yuan Tian, International Project Leader at the Documentary Channel of China Media Group Film and Television Documentary Center; and Shuyun Sun, well known Director and Creative Director of EOS Films. Chinese and foreign experts discussed in depth how documentaries can help China continue to communicate with the world in the context of globalization through online and offline dialogue.

Today, mankind is facing a test of globalization: how to use documentaries to maintain communication and exchange between China and the world:
1. What is the most difficult part of cross-cultural documentary production and distribution? How best to design a cross-cultural apporach?
2. What kind of themes are appropriate topics for cross-cultural engagement?
3. What are the differences between a documentary's Chinese version and the international one?

"For cross-cultural communication and exchange, mutual trust is the foundation," according to Vice President of Discovery Media Group Vikram Channa. He further stated, "Secondly, the process of telling stories and the way we tell them is also very important. The most difficult part of intercultural cooperation is the linguistic and geopolitical challenge. If you don't speak the language, you can't express it fluently and accurately.”

When it comes to cross-cultural themes, Vikram Channa says all themes are fair game, but there are some challenges. "For example, we made a film about President Xi's policies, and we adopted a new shooting method. We shot the film in a way that anyone could understand, combining Hollywood entertainment in the production, so that the audience would be more receptive."

BBC executive Producer Matthew Springford said there are two challenges when working with China ..."how we tell China's story, and its relevance and practicality. The important thing about telling China's stories to the world is how we dig into those stories and give some real experts a voice in the film."

He believes that cultural programs are better when it comes to cross-cultural cooperation. Taking a documentary about tea as an example, he said, "Although it is a Chinese subject, all tea-drinking countries in the world can understand it." In addition, he felt topics related to natural science and human history were good subjects, because science is a universal language that everyone can understand. And concerning topics about human history..."because we are human beings, history has a natural attraction for us." He further states that there are "no different versions of documentaries, because our works are aimed at audiences throughout the world, and the specific differences are all technical ones. For example, Chinese audiences are used to subtitling, while English documentaries usually have no subtitling."

Liz McLeod, Producer at Meridian Lines Films in Britain, believes that there are two main points for successful international cross-cultural collaboration: the first is that the teams communicate instantly. Second concerns the communication between the producer and the international audience. She explains "We pay attention to the cultural experience and exploration, and experience life in the process together, thus the information we need is obtained organically."

In terms of subjects, she believes that all subjects can be filmed, but some countries are more sensitive to certain topics. For example, when presenting historical topics, different countries tend to show their own perspectives. If audiences want to see different perspectives, they need to see films from several countries. As for the differences between different versions, she said that they should suit the culture and national environment of the film.

Yuan Tian, Director of the Documentary Channel international program at the China Media Group's Film and Television Documentary Center, said that from the perspective of international cooperation, the introduction of foreign films is, on the one hand, aimed to open a new window for our audiences. On the other hand, it acts as a supplement to domestic documentaries. So it's important to keep the material fresh, but also to find common knowledge, common feelings, and common values. For him it's not a question of whether something "fits" to a culture or people, but how it is presented.
He explains, that "for example, subjects like nature are particularly suitable as cross-cultural topics, because they have universal characteristics and are less likely to arouse the negative feelings from people from different cultural backgrounds." Over the course of its 10 years, the Documentary Channel has completed more than 30 international joint projects, with about 110 hours of content, with the focus on natural history and science. As concerns different versions of domestic and foreign content, he stated that "... in fact, it is necessary to adapt to the platform and adapt to the needs of the period; the main content remains same.
According to Shuyun Sun, Creative Director of EOS Films, trust is the biggest challenge in cross-cultural collaboration. In addition, communication is especially important. A good story must be told in a way that will please the audience. However, as a cross-cultural co-production, it is necessary to understand the interests of audiences and even advertisers. Therefore, the key point of cross-cultural topic selection is "to find a good story and a good entry point, and then stick to it." As for the differences in cross-cultural production, she said that different countries' versions may have a different emphasis, but the essence is the same. For example, in the domestic and international versions of A Year in Tibet, there are differences between the voice actors and the sound effects. The version is selected by the broadcasting platform according to the audience's viewing habits and preferences. In addition, she hopes there will be opportunities for more cooperation on projects in the future in today's global world.