'Back to 1942' Wins Top Prize at Beijing Film Festival

Clarence Tsui
'Back to 1942' Wins Top Prize at Beijing Film Festival

BEIJING – Back to 1942 has emerged as the big winner at the Beijing International Film Festival by winning the Best Feature Film and Best Visual Effects awards.

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With Saturday’s deadly tremors at Sichuan still very much hovering over the proceedings at the festival’s awards gala on Tuesday night, Feng Xiaogang’s natural-disaster epic – which revolves around the famine which devastated the province of Hunan during the second world war – has proved to be an apt victor in the inaugural edition of the festival’s Tiantan Awards.

The predominantly Chinese audience also erupted as another homegrown talent, Yan Bingyan, nabbed the Best Actress title with her performance in the Chinese film Feng Shui.

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Meanwhile, three other entries took two prizes each. Cate Shortland’s Lore won in the directing and cinematography categories; Song For Marion brought director Paul Andrew Williams a Best Screenplay prize and his star Terence Stamp the Best Actor title; Armenian production If Only Everyone won Best Supporting Actor (for Vahagn Simoyan) and Best Music.

Helena Bonham Carter, who wasn’t present at the ceremony, was crowned Best Supporting Actress for her turn in Mike Newell’s Great Expectations, while Canadian-French co-production Inch’Allah was given a Special Jury Award.

Led by Russian filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov – who was also honored at the festival with a four-film mini-retrospective – the seven-strong judging panel comprises also artistic director Cameron Bailey, International Federation of Film Producers Associations executive committee member Geoff Brown, South Korean director Kang Je-gyu, British director-screenwriter Ivor Benjamin, as well as Chinese directors Gu Changwei and Zhang Yibai.

Fifteen entries competed for the awards, which were given out for the first time this year at what is the third edition of the Beijing festival.

In a statement of intent to boost the festival’s credentials – and that of China as a cultural superpower – the awards ceremony at the Chinese National Convention Center was staged with bombastic, multi-media performances and the appearances of stars such as Jackie Chan, Jay Chou, Zhang Yimou,John Woo, Luc Besson and Keanu Reeves.

Back to 1942 star Xu Fan performed a traditional Peking Opera number celebrating Beijing and the Tiantan Awards, while British singer Sarah Brightman delivered live renditions of Scarborough Fair and the theme song of Phantom of the Opera.

The ceremony took on a solemn note in the face of the earthquake which has killed more than 180 people and injured thousands more on Saturday, with the organizers replacing the red carpet with a blue one and asking arriving guests to dress in either black or white as a sign of respect.

The show itself began with a note of remembrance to the victims of the tremors at Ya’an municipality, with director Chen Kaige’s introductory speech – delivered amidst acrobatic and dance performances showcasing Chinese culture – laced with condolences and tribute to those who perished in the catastrophe.

Clarence Tsui