China Media Watchdog Welcomes Tech Firms Move Into Entertainment

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Luan Guozhi, deputy head of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, made his remarks at the unveiling of details about this year's Beijing International Film Festival.

The deputy head of China's media authority has said the entry of tech firms such as Alibaba or Youku Tudou into the film business would boost the country's film market long-term and provide healthy competition for Hollywood.

"The involvement of these internet companies has a positive meaning and can promote the film industry, improve the quality and make the Chinese film market bigger," Luan Guozhi, deputy director of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), told a news conference to announce details of next month's Beijing International Film Festival.

Tech giants like Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and Youku Tudou have been aggressively trying to boost their entertainment divisions, and are regularly linked to acquisitions in Hollywood.

"Meanwhile, we must regulate the market to create an orderly and fair market. We would like to cooperate with Hollywood and learn from each other. It is healthy competition," Luan said.

Organizers of this year's fifth edition of the Beijing festival unveiled details of this year's event, which will take place April 16-23 in the Chinese capital, including the members of the International Jury, which this year is chaired by French director Luc Besson, riding high after the success of his sci-fi action-thriller Lucy in China last year.

The jury includes U.S screenwriter and filmmaker Robert Mark Kamen (The Karate Kid, The Transporter), Russian director Fedor Bondarchuk (The State Counsellor), Hong Kong director and producer Peter Ho-sun Chan (Dearest, American Dreams in China), South Korean director Kim Ki-duk (One on One), Brazilian producer, director and writer Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) and Chinese actress Zhou Xun (Suzhou River, The Message).

Last year's event had over 1,000 companies and 7,000 attendees, up 25 percent and 70 percent, respectively, on the previous year. A total of 248 domestic and foreign companies from 24 countries attended, and 32 contracts worth a total of $1.68 billion were signed, according to the organizers, up 20 percent on the previous year.

Besson will chair the panel to award the Tiantan awards at the close of the event. The prize is handed out in 10 categories: best feature, director, actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress, screenplay, cinematography, music and visual effects.

A total of 930 films from 90 countries signed up for the award, of which 122 were Chinese films.

This year, the event will also feature awards at the Beijing Film Market for project pitches and projects with the greatest commercial potential, with the BJIFF cooperating with Cannes film festival.

The market section of the Beijing International Film Festival has linked up with the Motion Picture Association (MPA) on a series of joint initiatives to help young filmmakers.

The measures are aimed at boosting filmmaking in China by fast-tracking and pitching projects with help from workshops, pitching opportunities, mentoring and award competitions.

Italian festival veteran Marco Mueller has been named chief advisor to the festival, which is seeking to bolster its international chops.

Beijing International Film Festival is very much a state-backed enterprise, and the rhetoric of the statement released by the organizers is a reminder that China is a communist country and the industry is expected to serve the interests of the state.

Much is made of how the event is "carried out in accordance with the important instructions and spirits of Xi Jinping, general cecretary of Chinese Communist Party, on strengthening international cultural exchange."

The organizing committee had carefully studied President Xi's comments last year on making "art serve the people".

"Sticking to the right orientation and enhancing cultural confidence, it assumes social responsibilities and persistently seeks for better quality and spectacular products," the statement ran, promising to adhere to the principles of "safety, economization, quality and civilization."

The festival includes a large market, forums, exhibitions and a carnival. The forums include the Sino-Foreign Film Co-production Forum, International Film Group Summit Forum and a summit of the Beauty of Film.

China’s emergence as the world's second-largest film market means the festival has attracted some big names in recent years. Last year it drew Paramount Pictures COO Frederick Huntsberry, Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron, MPA president Christopher Dodd and Frozen producer Peter Del Vecho, among others.

Past festivals have been attended by James Cameron and Keanu Reeves.

Director Oliver Stone caused a stir at last year's festival when he called on Chinese filmmakers to make movies that addressed controversial historical issues.

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