Cannes: The Chinese Are Coming (in Force)

Wang Jianlin chairman of Dalian Wanda Group
Wang Jianlin chairman of Dalian Wanda Group
 Getty

Expect to hear plenty of Mandarin along the Croisette this year, as up to 400 Chinese film industryites descend on Cannes for the festival this year, a sign of a growing outward focus for the world’s second biggest film market.

There was disappointment about the absence of Chinese movies in competition this year -- Zhang Yimou’s Coming Home is playing Out of Competition -- but the general trend is for greater participation by the Chinese film business on the international scene. 

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China is co-hosting the Opening Night party and is the focus of several new talent initiatives, while director Jia Zhangke is on the jury.

Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man, is expected to attend the fest. He is looking for ways to expand Wanda’s leverage in the film business since its 2012 acquisition of AMC Entertainment, North America's second largest movie theater circuit. In January, Wang met the festival’s Thierry Fremaux and Christian Jeune in Paris.

Yu Dong of the distributor Bona, in which Rupert Murdoch has a stake, is coming to Cannes, along with executives Jack Gao, Xu Peixin and chief operating officer Jeffrey Chan.

“Cannes to me represents a remarkable coalescence of the most artistic and commercial elements of film into an event which filmmakers and non-filmmakers alike, from around the globe, are thrilled to be part of. It stands as a wondrous target for us to reach,” Chan told THR.

China Film Group will have a delegation to promote their movie Wolf Totem, directed by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud, although there appears to be no senior CFG management attending.

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Zhang Qiang, China Film Company’s vice president in charge of film investment and production, who had all of his luggage stolen from his rented Cote d'Azur apartment last year, will not be coming.

Zhang Zhao, head of LeVision Pictures, who invested in Expendables 2 and has signed Zhang Yimou to its stable of directors, is attending.

Sure to attract a lot of attention will be execs from Huayi Brothers, which is planning to invest between $120 million and $150 million in the Studio 8 venture with former Warner Bros. film chief Jeff Robinov. Huayi will link up with Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves on several projects in coming months.

There are signs that the festival is taking China seriously. In March, Cinando, the Marché industry database, launched a Chinese version of the site to cover the market and present industry listings in Mandarin.

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