Sarandon, Dillon, Dafoe and Tomei all Shanghai-bound

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

The stars will join sponsor Jaeger-LeCoultre at June 11 China fest.

BEIJING – Susan Sarandon, Matt Dillon, Willem Dafoe and Marisa Tomei are all bound for China this June on a visit to the world’s fastest growing film market as guests of the 14th Shanghai International Film Festival, organizers said on Thursday.

SIFF also added sponsor Jaeger-Lecoultre, the Swiss luxury watch maker, to the red carpet, adding international shine to an event that, with Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson as the head of the jury, already is looking more star-studded than previous editions.

Although Sarandon has no film experience in China, she is a huge ping pong enthusiast who opened her own New York City table tennis club in 2009, making her a natural Hollywood to China go-between.

SIFF’s other newly-announced Hollywood guests have greater, but still tenuous, connections to the Middle Kingdom. Dafoe starred as a priest opposite actress Luo Yan in the 2001 flop Pavilion of Women; Dillon starred opposite Chinese actress Joan Chen in Golden Gate in 1994, and Tomei co-starred in the 2000 film What Women Want, a Chinese remake of which was released this spring.

Jaeger-LeCoultre, on the other hand, has its hands full in China, launching last year an exclusive Chinese enamel print wristwatch with support from director Chen Kaige and actress Karen Mok. The 178-year-old company will host an auction on opening night, June 11, to raise funds to repair 10 classic Chinese films and to support new, young Chinese directors.

Just as China’s middle class has a newfound movie going habit that boosted gross box office sales 64% last year to $1.5 billion, the country’s wealthiest citizens have made the territory the biggest market for luxury goods, from Swiss watches, to French fashion to German and Italian automobiles.

“This film festival’s concept of innovation and development of classical tradition coincide with our own,” Jérôme Lambert, president of Jaeger-LeCoultre said in a statement. “We hope the booming Chinese film industry will support more innovative and creative investment in potential films and promote film culture.”

The SIFF-Jaeger-LeCoultre partnership will last for three years and culminate in the screening of the repaired classics at the 2014 festival.

The SIFF-Jaeger-Lecoultre China Film Pitch and Catch will award prizes of 100,000 yuan ($15,380) each to the films that show the greatest export potential in the categories "Most Creative Project” and "Best Investment Potential.”

Also in support of young filmmakers, SIFF earlier announced that directors John Woo (Red Cliff), Feng Xiaogang (Aftershock) and Billy August (Pelle the Conqueror) of Denmark, will serve as mentors for the participants in the festival’s Budding Talent Plan, helping with screenwriting and sharing their experiences to help young directors produce more inspiring films.

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