With B.O. rising by nearly 30% every year, small wonder that China’s film festivals are attracting more attention, and with that attention, competition.
The well-established jewel in the crown, the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival, which runs June 15-23 in China’s financial capital, has seen a rival festival rise in China’s political capital, Beijing, where many of the country’s filmmakers are choosing to base themselves to be near the main decision-making bodies.
Beijing is home to the Film Bureau and to China Film Group, the two state-owned entities that decide whether a film lives or dies in China, regardless if it’s from the biggest studio in Hollywood or from a neophyte indie Beijing helmer.
This political leverage has helped the Beijing fest lure big names like James Cameron, and this year’s event included DreamWorks topper Jeffrey Katzenberg and Lucasfilm prexy Kathleen Kennedy.
With this kind of muscle to compete against, Shanghai has chosen to emphasize its international aspect, especially with the growing importance of cooperation between China and Hollywood.
A big selling point of Shanghai is that it’s an easier city for foreigners to adjust to. Its years as a settlement run by the Brits, the French and the Americans have left familiar architectural signposts behind, and it is a more cosmopolitan city than Beijing.
SIFF topper Ren Zhonglun says that 1,655 movies from 112 countries and regions were entered into the fest, a sign of Shanghai’s growing international dimensions and a record for the event.
“The Shanghai Film Festival has to be more open and international. And one of the big achievements of the fest is that the jury is getting more international,” says SIFF organizing committee managing director Fu Wenxia.
Headed by English director Tom Hooper, the jury for the Golden Goblet Award includes French critic Michel Ciment, German director Chris Kraus, Iranian helmer Khosro Masoumi, Chinese director Ning Hao, Czech director Jiri Menzel and mainland actress Yu Nan.The competish boasts films from Canada, Bulgaria, Greece, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Turkey, Japan, Korea and China.
“Everybody is taking a close look at the Chinese market and more countries and projects are coming into China, which makes our total number increase,” says Ren. And indeed, the box office continues to rise swiftly in China. Between November and April, B.O. takings were up 2 billion yuan ($330 million) at $1.27 billion, compared with a year ago.
Ren says the focus will be on expanding the China Film Pitch and Catch and Co-production Pitch and Catch sessions. “We will choose eight Chinese film projects that have potential and 21 co-productions hoping to attract more capital and partners to join,” says Ren.
Films competing at Shanghai
“A Gun & a Ring,” by Lenin M. Sivam (Canada)
“I Am You,” by Petar Popzlatev (Bulgaria)
“Joy,” by Elias Giannakakis (Greece)
“Maina” by Michel Paulette (Canada)
“The Major,” by Yury Bykov (Russia)
“Reliance,” by William Olsson (Sweden)
“Mr. Morgan’s Last Love,” by Sandra Nettelbeck (Germany/Belgium)
“Taste of Poetry,” by Savas Baykal (Turkey)
“Unbeatable,” by Dante Lam (China)
”Under the Nagasaki Sky, by Taro Hyugaji (Japan)
“Fists of Legend,” by Kang Woo-suk (South Korea)
“Amazing,” by Hu Xuehua (China)