Producer: 'Beijing' to open HK fest

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BEIJING -- Director Li Yu's "Lost in Beijing" will open the Hong Kong International Film Festival in March, its producer and mainland China distributor said Wednesday.

The announcement follows a demand earlier in the week by government censors that director Li cut 15 minutes from her film about rape and class conflict in China's capital before it goes overseas or screens on the mainland.

But a festival spokesman said that more than eight films are in the running for the opening spot in Hong Kong. He added that "Beijing" is eligible because it was financed partly through its participation in the 2006 Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum, a part of the HKIFF.

Also, Peter Tsi, HKIFF executive director, said he would not comment on producer Fang Li's claim that "Beijing" was tapped for the opening slot, saying that the roster would be announced Feb. 22.

Fang's claim that "Beijing" would open the 31st HKIFF beginning March 20 was repeated by Yu Dong, CEO of Beijing Poly Bona Film Distribution, the leading distributor of Hong Kong films on the mainland.

Tsi said in an interview, "We don't want to comment on this particular claim. If we do, it will only benefit the film commercially and the HKIFF refuses to be manipulated in that manner."

"It has been the tradition of HKIFF to program films from mainland China without regard for issues apart from their artistic values," Tsi added.

Meanwhile, in Berlin it's still a big mystery -- after an official ban, then Beijing censors' approval on condition of 53 cuts -- what form "Beijing" will take when it premieres in competition in Berlin.

Director Li and her producer Fang on Wednesday continued a bold game of brinkmanship with censors, who have the power to ban them from mainland moviemaking if they don't erase from "Beijing" images that aren't in sync with the clean and stable portrait communist leaders want to promote to the world ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Censors asked that the depiction of an affair between a window-washing peasant and a rich man's wife be cut, and that "Beijing" lose the portrayal of the descent into prostitution of a country girl fired from her big-city job as a foot masseuse.

On Tuesday, Paris-based sales agent Films Distribution said "Beijing" would screen uncut in Berlin but added that it would follow the director's wishes. Then, on Wednesday, Poly Bona's Yu said, "The censored version will go to Berlin. That way we can still show it in China in April."
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