Barry Levinson to Head Shanghai Film Festival Jury

The two-time Oscar winner will be the jury's highest-profile president to date.

BEIJING – Barry Levinson, Hollywood screenwriter, producer and Oscar winning Rain Man director will be jury president at the 14th Shanghai International Film Festival this June 11-19, organizers said Tuesday.

Filling the role previously held by Luc Besson, Danny Boyle, Wong Kar Wai, John Woo and Chen Kaige, Levinson, 69, will bring the weight of two Academy Awards to bear on the biggest annual film event in the world’s fastest-growing movie marketplace, where box office ticket sales jumped 64% in 2010 to hit $1.5 billion.
A Baltimore native, Levinson is best known in China for his 1988 direction of Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in the dramatic comedy about a brash capitalist discovering his long lost, autistic and talented brother.
Although Rain Man was not released theatrically in China it has been a popular pirated title over the years among Chinese students of English and American popular culture.
Before he arrives in Shanghai, China's already gotten a sense of Levinson the modern man -- he appears on billboards and in magazines with Hong Kong director Johnnie To (Election) in the first dedicated series of ads for U.S. clothing giant Gap in China.
In addition to earning Levinson the Best Director Oscar, Hoffman the Best Actor Oscar and Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass the Best Screenplay Oscar, Rain Man took home the Best Picture Oscar and is the only film also to take home the Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear for best film in the same year.
Levinson’s other works -- including Diner, Bugsy and The Natural – have earned a total of 34 Academy Award nominations.
"Barry Levinson is brilliant. His work’s reputation extends beyond world cinema masters, the media and the audience,” Tang Lijun, SIFF executive vice secretary-general, said in a statement. “He has left a very deep impression on the Chinese audience and the Shanghai International Film Festival is honored to have him.”
Some of Levinson’s influence in Shanghai might have been felt in the 2010 SIFF, which opened last June with a premiere of debut director Xue Xiaolu’s Ocean’s Heaven, a film starring martial arts legend Jet Li in a straight dramatic role as a terminally ill father struggling to find a new home for his autistic son.
Levinson, whose title in Shanghai will be president of the Golden Cup Award (jin jue, in Chinese), will attend the festival opening on June 11 leading six international judges across the red carpet.
His works will be shown in the festival’s Tribute to the Masters section, organizers said.