Jackie Chan, Zhang Ziyi Kick Off Inaugural Beijing Film Festival

Director John Woo is also on hand Saturday to help launch the six-day event.

No films showing at the festival will be making a world premiere and, as festival image ambassador actress Zhang, one of China's most exportable film stars, pointed out, it's unusual relative to other festivals.

"It's already my favorite because there's no competition -- no winner, no losers -- only beautiful films," Zhang said. "I wish the Beijing International Film Festival will be better and better and develop into a top-class festival."

Some guests wondered aloud how the new event might be affected by its timing considering its competition for attention with the ongoing Tribeca Film Festival and the annual industry rush to prepare for the granddaddy of all festivals in Cannes in May.

"The fact that the Shanghai International Film Festival has succeeded over thirteen years each June and has inspired Beijing makes sense. Beijing is a major city and it should have its own event," said Michael Werner, the chairman of Hong Kong-based sales and investment company Fortissimo Films. "Is this festival in the best time in the calendar? Probably not."

Still, healthy contingents of executives from Japan, Korea, Europe, Australia and New Zealand turned up at the festival and for the concurrent and longer-established Beijing Screenings market event, now folded into the BJIFF from its previous date in September.

Cristiano Bortone of Orisa Productions in Rome was at the BJIFF with hopes of co-producing a romance in China to teach the country's swelling middle class what Italy's really about: "The beauty of our land, our food and our simple way of life," said Bortone, adding, "And about tourism. "Many in the West don't realize just how developed China has become. Rather than blaming China for our ills, we must find ways to work together to make movies that exploit mutual understanding."

The event's two-hour opening ceremony was punctuated by multi-themed dance routines to lip-synched singing and canned drum music that seemed to have little to do with film.

By contrast, the appearance on stage of Italy's Orchestra del Cinema, playing the themes from everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Chinese classic My Mother, My Father to Fellini's 8-1/2, was a stroke of relevant and truly international programming.

In the absence of a narrative feature film competition, organizers gave over one section of the evening to sing the praises of 10 commercially successful Chinese films of the last 12 months and show their trailers cut down to just a few seconds each.

These films honored were Aftershock, Confucius, Bodyguards and Assassins, Sacrifice, Ip Man 2, the animated The Killing of Milu Deer, Walking to School, Shaolin, 72 Tenets of Prosperity and Reign of Assassins.

Nearly two-dozen key men and women behind these 10 hits took to the stage to receive a scroll and a clear, crystal-like objet d'arte. They included, among others, Aftershock director Feng Xiaogang, actress Zhang Jingchu and producer James Wang, the head of Huayi Brothers Pictures and Yu Dong, CEO of Nasdaq listed Bona Film Group.

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