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The Independent Who With Passion & Persistence
Achieved The Art Of Conducting Business In China

Chris D. Nebe
Chris D. Nebe's journey to understanding the Chinese and working with them has always been a passionate path. His latest documentary Diaoyu Islands, a culmination of this passion and long involvement with China before the country was of interest to the West, hit a profound nerve in China. A media sensation, Nebe was recognized with the 2014 News Person Of The Year Award from the Home & Abroad News Press, the Fighter For Justice Award from the Chinese Civil Defenders of the Diaoyu Islands Foundation, and the Cultural Exchange Award from the Communications University of China. His company Monarex Hollywood Corporation is now securely placed for Nebe to continue to cement his business relationships and conduct business in China.

THE BUSINESS OF FILM: Through your independent company Monarex Hollywood Corporation you have spent nearly two decades visiting China in various capacities, and in the last few years making a series of documentaries about the differing regions of this vast country. The Mysterious China series is a cultural embrace of China, When was your passion for this country ignited?

CHRIS D. NEBE: I was always interested in the Far East. I had traveled extensively in Asia, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan. The first film I distributed in the days when I was working in the business in Germany was Onibaba by the famous director Kaneto Shindo, which was a huge hit in Europe. I was pleased to see that Kaneto Shindo recently had a retrospective in Hollywood. Before my first journey to China in 1995, I was an avid reader of Lao-Tzu's philosophy who lived in the 6th century BC at the same time as Confucius. Lao Tzu's revered book of 5000 words, the Tao Te Ching, is as relevant today as it was when it was written. His philosophy is different from Confucius, who is more government and family-oriented. Today it's amazing how current the words of Lao-Tzu are. He said, "When you tamper with nature, you will harm it." He also said, "Show me a man of violence who came to a good end and I'll take him as my teacher." This is wonderful, and this type of wisdom in this book was for me very impressive. As for the Confucian idea, I find that also interesting. Christianity is based on: "Don't do to others what you don't want to have done to you." What also deepened my love for China was the Yin and the Yang, symbols for heaven and earth; they are actually fish. In early Christianity the fish symbol was also found in the Catacombs of Rome. I believe that 500 years before Jesus, Confucius lived, and his philosophy, as well as the philosophy of Lao-Tzu, must have traveled westward on the Silk Road, eventually got to Jerusalem and there a smart young revolutionary, Jesus, picked up the ideas and created his own message. When I first came to China, I learnt that the slogan you hear very frequently from both Confucius and Lao-Tzu, Peace and Harmony, is not an empty slogan, it's in their DNA. That's why the Chinese are non-confrontational. They don't like to say no, they avoid a direct confrontation, in direct contrast to the West and in America where confrontation rules. When I moved to Hollywood to make movies I became a part of the social activities in the Chinese community behind the Bamboo Curtain, that separates the vibrant Chinese community from the rest of Los Angeles. At that time I received my first invitation to visit China as a guest of the Chengdu Film Festival in Sichuan Province in the West of China.

TBOF: Your latest documentary in the series The Diaoyu Islands The Truth tells the little known story of the facts behind this ongoing struggle for the islands. Why is so little known of the struggle?
The Diaoyu Islands Geographical position: 1230124034' E (longitude) and 25040'260 N (latitude). Irrefutably the sovereignty of China.
CDN: The issue of the Diaoyu Islands concerns the question of Sovereignty. The conflict between China and Japan regarding five uninhabited islands with rich fishing grounds surrounding them dates back to the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894. In 1895, the Chinese Qing Dynasty signed the Shimonoseki Peace Treaty with Imperial Japan and was forced to cede to Japan in perpetuity the Liaodong Peninsula, the Pescadores Islands and Taiwan, and also had to pay a huge ransom in gold. At the same time, Japan annexed the uninhabited Diaoyu Islands as spoils of war and immediately incorporated them in the Okinawa Prefecture. The claim of the Chinese to the Diaoyu Islands is correct because in old maritime charts, these islands were shown as part of China, while in Japanese maritime charts they are not part of Japan. The evidence is very clear and why they were not on the front burner of geopolitics was very simple: because the early part of the 20th Century were turbulent times for China. After World War II in the 1945 peace treaty, the Japanese were ordered to return to China all territories mentioned in the Shimonoseki Treaty. The Diaoyu Islands were not part of that treaty and the United States assumed the administrative rights over those islands. Interestingly, even though China was an Allied Nation during WWII, and suffered the most under Imperial Japan, when the peace treaty was signed the Chinese were not invited and their repeated requests to return the Diaoyu Islands to them were simply ignored by the United States of America. This was all part of the prevailing Cold War Hysteria.

TBOF: The research was very thorough. How were you able to source this material? Why has the response been so enthusiastic in China to this particular documentary? In fact, why hasn't somebody done this story before?

CDB: My extensive research clearly showed that the Diaoyu Islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times. When the film was completed we had a press screening in Beverly Hills, and the entire LA-based Chinese media was there, including crucially the Chinese state news agency, and the Chinese state television. Their response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. I realized at that moment that the documentary I had made would have wide reaching important consequences in China. Within 48 hours I flew to China, and with my business associate Ms. Chen Xiaoxia of Global Communication & Cooperation Company in Beijing, we immediately started on subtitling the documentary and arranged a press screening in Beijing. Without knowing it, without planning it, I hit a profound nerve in China. The film is a media sensation in China. I received the 2014 News Person Of The Year Award from the Home & Abroad News Press, the Fighter For Justice from the Chinese Civil Defenders of the Diaoyu Islands Foundation and the Cultural Exchange Award from the Communications University of China. Diaoyu Islands The Truth is through the eyes of a foreigner which irrefutably illustrates the truth. In my opinion, America should encourage the Japanese to give the islands back, and most of all apologize to China for the WWII war crimes of Imperial Japan. It's a purely a political situation which could be resolved very easily by the Americans. Why I am popular in China as a result of this documentary is because the question is raised all over China, and on the internet, how come it took a foreigner to do what we should have done? The evidence in regard to the Diaoyu Islands is irrefutable, absolutely airtight. The Chinese are excited to see it in a clear light. Now that my company Monarex Hollywood Corporation is in the limelight, this has carried forward to my other documentaries such as Tibet The Truth. There have been many films about Tibet, but there has never been a Documentary or film that illustrates from day one, step by step, how Tibet has over centuries evolved as an integral part of China - an interesting point and one misunderstood by the West.

TBOF: In your opinion, why is so difficult for Westerners, whether it's a major company or an independent such as yourself, to break the barrier with the Chinese when dealing with them in business?

CDB: Conducting business with the Chinese is strongly based on long term personal relationships and trust. I understand that people have been dealing with the Chinese for in excess of five years and not broken the barrier, but there is something else. We have to understand in the West the 5000 year Culture of the Chinese. If we don't appreciate this, we can never be in a constructive relationship. They feel misunderstood, misinterpreted and looked down upon, because the Western media is biased.


China's LA based Deputy Consul General Sun Weide who attended the premiere of Diaoyu Islands The Truth in Beverly Hills talking to members of the Chinese media.
TBOF: How vast is the divide in terms of 'culture' between the West and the Chinese? China is growing wealthy on the demise of the industrial structure of the West, and with it comes vast wealth and international influence that has permeated their society. In your opinion, has this changed the dynamic of their culture, particularly among the young people?

CDB: That's an interesting question. The Chinese have their own vision and version of socialism with Chinese characteristics which they are constantly refining and developing with its fast growth rate economically and its expanding middle class. We have socialism in Germany with German characteristics, you have it in England. The Chinese have their own vision. There is a certain purity to their vision and social tolerance, a more elevated attitude to matters unlike the West. The Chinese are peace loving. They have never invaded another country. That's something very remarkable.

Today's young people of China unfortunately do not pay much attention to their cultural heritage, but are totally infatuated by consumerism.

However, the Chinese Government tries everything possible to remind the Chinese of their ancient culture

TBOF: With Diaoyu Islands The Truth you have been propelled firmly into an unprecedented position in the hearts and minds of the Chinese, and the corridors of power in terms of conducting business with China as an international independent filmmaker. What comes next?

CDB: I have found myself increasingly feted by the Chinese, and Diaoyu Islands The Truth has elevated me into a position which is very unusual for a Westerner. This journey to understanding the Chinese and working with them is a passionate path for me. To go into a completely different culture and slowly and truly understand them is very exciting. As I have come to understand them, I'm sad that not only America, but also Europe, often misunderstand the intentions of China. The times of Imperial Western Colonialism which still haunt China are over. The 21st Century is the century of Asia under the leadership of China and the West needs to pay attention and understand that.

My next project is Burman Road - Flying Tigers, which tells the story of a time in WWII when China and the United States of America were Brothers in Arms fighting a common enemy: Imperial Japan. Thereafter, I will be filming Inner Mongolia - In the Footsteps of Genghis Khan, followed by China Going Green, which shows the efforts of China to fight pollution, desertification and creating sustainable new energy sources. All these films are part of the Mysterious China Series, which now has 12 completed films.

About Monarex Hollywood Corporation
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Monarex Hollywood Corporation's mission is to produce poignant documentary films that celebrate the epic cultural heritage and the dynamic economic development of China. Award-winning writer, producer and director Chris D. Nebe, president of Monarex, is a globetrotter who speaks several languages and has always had a keen geopolitical interest. Many of his documentaries reflect his engagement in human rights and environmental issues.

The internationally acclaimed and award-winning films of Monarex's Mysterious China Series inform and educate. Films in the series have earned awards from the American Pixel Academy, Telly Awards, and Accolade Competition, and received honors at film festivals including Moondance International Film Festival and Worldfest Houston Film Festival. Most recently Tibet - The Truth received the Golden Angel Award for Best Documentary at the 2013 Chinese American Film Festival in Los Angeles. ET

This article is also available in The Business Of Film's new and innovative QR Reader Platform featured in the TBOF Cannes Special Issue & Product Guide Printed Edition.
 
 

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