Beijing Film Festival Brings Hollywood Power Players, Classic Cinema to China

John Woo Directing - H 2014

John Woo Directing - H 2014

The Chinese capital’s premier movie event will feature A-list industryites, including Chris Dodd, Alfonso Cuaron, Oliver Stone, "Frozen" producer Peter Del Vecho and John Woo, while also offering a cinematic feast for local film fans.

BEIJING -- The Beijing International Film Festival is set to kick off its fourth edition in the Chinese capital Wednesday, featuring 282 films, including local big-budget hits and restored versions of film classics, including several James Dean titles that will screen publicly in the country for the first time.  

This year’s festival, set to run through April 23, has lined up a phalanx of top industryites, including Paramount Pictures COO Frederick Huntsberry, Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron, MPAA president Christopher Dodd and Frozen producer Peter Del Vecho.

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Hong Kong movie legend John Woo will chair the jury to award the festival’s Tiantan Award.

The big names are drawn by China’s growing importance as a film market -- and Beijing, as the seat of government, is crucial because it is where the big decisions on the future of the country's film business are made.

But the organizers are keen to highlight the festival's emphasis on a simple love for cinema, amid all the talk of market growth surrounding the power players in town.

Zhao Zhiyong, the fest's deputy chief secretary, said the Chinese films chosen were “rich in artistic expression and profound in their messages.”

“This year, we classified quality films into different genres and arranged screenings at specific times, so people interested in a particular type can come and watch all the films they like in one visit,” said Zhao.

Many Chinese film fans have never really had an opportunity to watch the classics of Chinese and international cinema on the big screen, and even the country’s top directors grew up watching scratchy prints at film school or VHS copies.

With that in mind, the offering at this fourth Beijing festival is a real treat for audiences in what has become the world’s second-biggest film market.

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As well as Asquith’s love letter to the London Tube, the Restoration section will feature digitally enhanced versions of some of the most important titles in Chinese cinema, including 1922 romance Laborer's Love, also known as Romance of a Fruit Peddler, Cai Chusheng’s 1935 movie New Women, Fei Mu’s Spring in a Small Town, and Shen Fu’s 1948 movie Myriads of Lights.

The Classical Retrospective section will allow Chinese audiences to see tragic teen icon Dean in Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause, Elia Kazan’s East of Eden and George Stevens’ Giant.

Other classics include Guiseppe Tornatore’s The Legend of 1900, Malèna and Cinema Paradiso.

The Global View section will feature 34 movies, including Korean thriller Cold Eyes -- actor Sol Kyung-gu will be in Beijing – Gyan Correa’s The Good Road, Alberto Rodriguez’ Unit 7, Kurdish-Norwegian film director Hisham Zaman's feature debut Before Snowfall and The Spark of Life.

The 14 films short-listed for the Tiantan Awards will also screen at the Beijing Film Panorama. In addition to Woo, the jury includes Spanish producer Andres Vicente Gomez, Chinese directors Lu Chuan and Ning Hao, Italian actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta, French filmmaker Philippe Muyl and Indian director Rajkumar Hirani.

The panel will judge movies including A Promise by Patrice Leconte; Attila Marcel by Sylvain Chomet; Carmen, directed by Romanian director Doru Nitescu; Serbian film Circles, directed by Srdan Golubovic; Hope from South Korean helmer Lee Joon-ik; and Anthony Chen’s Singaporean film Ilo Ilo.

Also included are Georgian film In Bloom; Matterhorn by Diederik Ebbinge; India-Canada joint production Siddharth; My Enemy Within by Yorgos Tsemberopoulos; Kim Mordaunt’s The Rocket; Belgian pic Third Person; Zoran, My Nephew the Idiot by director Matteo Oleotto; Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster; and Peter Chan’s Partner.

HopeA Promise, Attila Marcel and Carmen will be screened in the Award Winners unit, while Grandmaster, nominated in the Competition Section, will show at IMMERSIVE -- the Imax Films Panorama unit.

Among attendees taking part in panel discussions at the fest include MPAA chief Dodd, directors Oliver Stone and Timur Bekmambetov and British producer Peter Ziering. French director Jean-Jacques Annaud, Taiwanese film scholar Peggy Chiao, Chinese director Xue Xiaolu and “two other guests of great influence” are yet to be confirmed.

There will also be an animation panel with Frozen visual-effects specialist Dale Mayeda, leading Chinese animation specialist Sun Lijun, Rio director Carlos Saldanha, Aardman Animation’s Peter Lord and David Bai, general project manager of Dargaud China.

There will be market screenings as well, and the total value of contracts signed during the mart is expected to exceed last year’s $1.4 billion.

The opening film will be France-Germany co-production Beauty and the Beast, which features Vincent Cassel and Léa Seydoux.

Established in 2011 in the Chinese capital, past editions of the Beijing festival have attracted such Hollywood figures as James Cameron, Luc Besson, Kathleen Kennedy and Keanu Reeves.