Beijing Film Festival Flexes International Muscle as Red Carpet Rolls Out
China’s burgeoning film market is proving a powerful draw for overseas industry players, while Oliver Stone advised local filmmakers not to follow Hollywood's lead.
BEIJING – Asian and international stars turned out in force to launch the fourth edition of the Beijing International Film Festival, with China’s growing importance as a film market proving a powerful draw for overseas industry figures.
The Chinese capital's top cinema event runs until April 23 and will feature 282 films, including restored versions of classics like Anthony Asquith’s Underground and Rebel Without A Cause featuring James Dean.
Prominent on the red carpet was Platoon and Savages director Oliver Stone, who has a long association with China over the years of its development, having first come here in 1992 for the Shanghai Film Festival, when he chaired the jury.
Stone spoke of his love for Chinese movies, but said that they needed to maintain their Chinese elements to succeed. "I love Chinese movies -- Chinese movies shouldn’t always worry about trying to be Hollywood," Stone told a briefing of local journalists, attended by The Hollywood Reporter. "Sometimes Chinese movies get silly, they put on these big numbers trying to be Hollywood. It’s awful, just like when a Hollywood movie tries to be something that it’s not. We all have to stick to our soul ... There is a good place for co-production, where East meets West, whether it’s a love story like Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing or The World Of Suzie Wong."
Hong Kong director John Woo, who is chairing the jury to award the festival's Tiantan Awards, was presented with a framed picture of a pine tree by South Korean actress Song Hye-kyo and was given a sword by Huang Xiaoming during a press conference for Woo's upcoming epic romance The Crossing, which will screen in two parts in China and in 3D. There are 14 films short-listed for the Tiantan Awards, and the jury also includes Spanish producer Andres Vicente Gomez, Chinese directors Lu Chuan and Ning Hao, Italian actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta, French filmmaker Philippe Muyl and Indian director Rajkumar Hirani.
Among those treading the red carpet at the festival's opening were French actor Jean Reno, Chinese director Zhang Yimou, South Korean actresses Chae Rim and Song Hye Kyo and a large contingent of Chinese stars including Zhang Ziyi, Fan Bingbing, Liu Yifei and Huang Xiaoming. Among the leading industry figures lined up for this year's festival are Paramount Pictures COO Frederick Huntsberry, Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron, Motion Picture Association of America president Christopher Dodd and Frozen producer Peter Del Vecho.
The festival’s opening film was the France-Germany co-production Beauty and the Beast, featuring Vincent Cassel and Lea Seydoux.
The assembled industry players are attracted by China’s growing importance as a film market -- box office topped $3.6 billion last year and is on track to make nearly $5 billion this year, driven by a steep rise in the number of theaters.
Chinese audiences will be able to see digitally enhanced versions of some of the most important titles in Chinese cinema, including the 1922 romance Laborer's Love, also known as Romance of a Fruit Peddler, Cai Chusheng’s 1935 movie New Women, Fei Mu’s Spring in a Small Town, and Shen Fu’s 1948 movie Myriads of Lights.
And for probably the first time, viewers here can watch tragic teen icon Dean in Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause, Elia Kazan’s East of Eden and George Stevens' Giant. Other classics include Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Legend of 1900, Malena and Cinema Paradiso.
Market screenings will take place later in the week. The total value of contracts signed during the market is expected to exceed last year’s $1.4 billion.