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LONDON – The British Film Institute announced Monday that 2014 will be a year of “business, trade, creative and cultural collaborations between the U.K. and China,” including a scheduled appearance on British shores by filmmaker Feng Xiaogang in February. Landing the visit from the popular Chinese director is something of a coup for the BFI.
The program, dubbed “Electric Shadows” (a translation of the Chinese term for movies, “dian ying”) will span the next 12 months and utilize the BFI’s full range of exhibition, archive, digital, education, theatrical and DVD distribution and publishing capacities.
The plans were announced Monday at the BFI headquarters in Southbank, London, as part of the organization’s international strategy, in which China was presented as a key priority territory.
The program promises to open up previously hard-to-see Chinese cinema to U.K. audiences, and to make U.K. film accessible to what will soon become the world’s biggest box office nation. The BFI is working alongside a range of key strategic partners throughout the year for the initiative, including the British Council, DCMS, UKTI and the GREAT Britain Campaign.
A season of Feng’s films will unspool at the BFI and an on-stage career overview interview with Feng will be held on Feb. 21.
Other planned collaborations between the Brits and the Chinese include a U.K. presence at FILMART, Hong Kong’s International Film & TV Market in March, along with the BFI and the British Council working closely with the Beijing International Film Festival to lead a trade delegation and present British film at the festival in April.
From June until October, the BFI will continue its Electric Shadows program by staging an exploration of Chinese cinema in the U.K., in a program called “A Century of Chinese Cinema.” And a program of contemporary and historic British film from the BFI and partners, including TIFF and the British Council, will be shown in Beijing in the fall, alongside a newly restored and incredibly rare collection of early non-fiction Chinese films (1901-1930’s) from the BFI National Archive.
BFI CEO Amanda Nevill said: “China is becoming one of the most important cultural and economic partners for film and is a key territory in the BFI’s international strategy for film. With this celebratory year, the BFI puts words into action by presenting a program packed with dynamic economic, creative and cultural partnerships to foster this hugely important territory and the largest and fastest growing film audience in the world. I can’t think of a better way to launch this most significant year for Anglo-Chinese film collaborations than a visit to the U.K. from China’s most popular contemporary film director, Feng Xiaogang. It’s so exciting for British audiences to discover his work, already enjoyed by literally millions of Chinese film goers.”
The visit from Feng, occasionally described as “China’s Spielberg” and the first person from mainland China to have his hands and feet immortalized in cement at Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre, will kick off the collaborative effort with his visit in February.
His appearance will be followed by a special screening of Back to 1942 (2012), a drama about the drought in Henan Province during the 1942 Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese entry in the best foreign language film category for this year’s Academy Awards. Feng made his name with comedies and satires including Dream Factory and Be There or Be Square, but his reputation and popularity in China were sealed with 2002’s Cellphone. The program of screenings at BFI Southbank includes Feng’s joyful romantic comedy If You Are The One (2008) and the rather more dark Assembly (2007) and Aftershock (2010).
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