Beijing Joins Crowded Fest Calendar

Zhu Quan/Xinhua/

The inaugural Beijing International Film Festival is facing stiff competition, but the booming Chinese market is hot enough to make it matter

The first Beijing International Film Festival and the concurrent market Beijing Film Market, which is in its 15th year, kick off April 23 as China's booming movie industry continues to draw a rising number of visitors and would-be participants from around the globe.

Local luminaries such as Jackie Chan and Zhang Ziyi are sure to lend the six-day BJIFF worldly flair, as will the mix of 100 imported and 60 homegrown films set to screen.

Among the titles due to unspool are Columbia's multi-Oscar-winning The Social Network and Chinese director Li Yu's art house feature Buddha Mountain, winner of the best actress award for star Fan Bingbing in the fall in Tokyo.

Other imports set to screen during the BJIFF include the Coen brothers' True Grit and Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. Because of violence and/or sex, neither title is likely to get a theatrical release here, and both will be subject to censorship at the festival.

None of the films listed on the BJIFF's website will be making a world premiere -- no surprise given the event's difficult spot on the calendar between the Hong Kong International Film Festival in March and the Festival de Cannes in May. The event certainly has its work cut out if it is to catch up with the glitz of Shanghai, whose organizers announced April 12 that Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson will chair its competition jury in June.

Still, interest in the BJIFF is strong throughout the region given China's rising prominence on the global film scene.

"The foreign studios are keen on participating at the Beijing festival as China is where the market is nowadays, especially when it's held at the capital," says Audrey Lee, sales and acquisitions GM of Edko Films, a major buyer of foreign films
in Hong Kong. "With the economy down in the U.S. and Europe, everyone wants to go to the place where there's a glimmer of hope."

The Beijing Film Market, previously known as the Beijing Screenings, offers attendees the opportunity to talk shop with emerging Chinese production houses that might get lost in the shuffle at larger events.

"The Beijing market for us is an opportunity to meet with the new companies and have an in-depth talk about their latest projects," Star Chinese Movies vp programming Cora Yim says. "There are more new suppliers of smaller Chinese films. I've met with some of the representatives at the Hong Kong Filmart last month, but it was more of an occasion to say hi. If we want to talk in detail about the new projects, it's usually at the Beijing Screenings." 

Despite being forced to rush its event five months forward on the calendar from its traditional September dates, film market organizers have managed to attract a diverse group of exhibitors including Fox International Productions, Kadokawa Pictures of Japan and the Association of Filmmakers of Cambodia.

The market also will include a who's who of the big Chinese state-run studios including August First Film Studio and Tianjin North Film Group. Conspicuously absent from the exhibitors list are the leading private Chinese film companies Huayi Brothers Media, Bona International and Enlight.

Other overseas visitors include TIFFCOM, German Films, Technicolor, Odin's Eye Entertainment of Australia and Patou Films International of France.

The market will host three days of themed exhibits and presentations about film copyright transactions, script copyright transactions, film merchandise, film co-production projects, film financing, young director cooperation, documentaries and film-related services.

But despite widespread optimism surrounding the event, some question the market's new dates. "I preferred it when the market was scheduled for September," one local insider says. "The new dates of are too close to the Shanghai International Film Festival in June. In the past, the September-October dates of the Beijing Screenings made it a warmup before the American Film Market. So it's better from a studio's perspective to have the Beijing festival and market be held in September rather than April."              

Bejjing International Film Festival
Beijing Film Market\
April 23 – 28
Beijing International Hotel