Shanghai Film Festival debuts new awards

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While most major international film events hand out awards, organizers of the 10th Shanghai International Film Festival have taken steps they hope will help separate their honors from the rest of the pack. In addition to upping the grand prize for the Asian New Talent Award to $40,000 and to bringing on Chen Kaige (pictured) one of China's leading filmmakers, to head the jury for the Jinjue Awards, organizers have added awards for Audience Choice and Media Choice.

While they carry only glory as their prize, the new awards are notable because the winners will be decided by ticket buyers and the members of China's state-controlled press. Both groups will, perhaps, be voting for the first time in their lives. (Voting with one's wallet doesn't yet carry much weight at China's boxoffice, where Beijing's notoriously thin-skinned censors limit moviegoers' choices.)

"SIFF wants to expand the influence of the audience, and we pitched the new awards with the goal of bringing the moviegoers back to the boxoffice," festival organizer Shen Yang says. "As a young film festival restricted by the limited number of buyers in China, our forum is the best platform for breaking through."

The winner of the 3-year-old Asian New Talent Award -- designed to encourage the international recognition of young filmmakers hailing from anywhere between Turkey and Tokyo -- will be decided this year by jury chairman and Chinese director He Ping, Hong Kong director Mabel Cheung, French film critic Jean Michel Frodon, Japanese director Isao Yukisada and Thai director-producer Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Contenders include four directors whose films are in Chinese: Pan Zhiyuan ("The Touch of Fate"), Sheng Zhimin ("Bliss"), Yang Shufeng ("The Cold Flame") and Wang Fen ("The Case"). International Asian New Talent contenders include Golam Rabbany Biplob from Bangladesh ("On the Wings of Dreams"), John De Rantau for his film about Papua New Guinea ("Denias, Singing on the Cloud"), Japanese director Hideaki Kataoka ("The Crossword Monologues"), South Korean director Kwon Hyung-jin ("For Horowitz") and French-Vietnamese director Othello Khanh ("Saigon Eclipse").

The 10-year-old Jinjue (or "golden chalice") Award is focused on the discovery of young directors from around the world and, organizers say, encourages "a dynamic and diversified world of films."

This year's Jinjue jury is lead by Chen, who is joined by vice chairman Fernando Trueba, the Spanish director, screenwriter and producer. The other jurors are German cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, Italian actress-producer Maria Grazia Cucinotta, French director-screenwriter Luc Jacquet, Chinese director Lu Chuan and Japanese director Kohei Oguri.

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