Shanghai unveils its inaugural Film Mart

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After one year of planning, organizers of the 10th annual Shanghai International Film Festival are about to unveil a new venue they hope will impress guests from around the world. Designed to boost the profile of the Chinese film industry, Film Mart, running June 17-19, has been added to the SIFF program just as the fest splits off from the older Shanghai Television Festival for the first time.

Zhou Tiedong, president of China Film Promotion International (the mart's organizer and co-sponsor), expects Film Mart to join the ranks of other major events on the indie cinema circuit -- including the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival.

"Like Sundance, the film festival and new Film Mart will be a springboard -- especially for low-budget films -- to launch into the market," says Zhou, whose employer is the overseas promotion arm of the state-run China Film Group Corp. "We are going to use the SIFF -- the only local film festival for the Chinese film industry -- to get a chance at exposure to the international financiers and buyers."

Several big-budget films will be among the 20 Chinese titles screening at Film Mart: Ann Hui's 2006 feature "The Postmodern Life of My Aunt" and two features from Beijing-based Huayi Brothers Pictures, director Feng Xiaogang's 2006 historical epic "The Banquet" and Chen Daming's 2006 opera film "One Foot off the Ground." The majority of the lineup, however, will feature smaller productions, most of which were made for about 3 million yuan ($384,000).

Zhou adds that Film Mart hopes to reach the roughly 50 million Chinese living overseas by giving them the chance to see productions from a country many of them left long ago.

Like sister events in Hong Kong in March and Pusan, South Korea, in October, Film Mart is designed to promote its home country as a filming location and an ideal place to co-produce, buy and sell films. In fact, Zhou is optimistic that with so many international visitors coming to China these days, Film Mart will seal more co-production deals than the 11 that were signed at the SIFF last year.

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