Iran's 'Castle of Dreams' Wins Big at Shanghai Film Festival

CASTLE OF DREAMS Still 1 -World Sales Cao. Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of World Sales Co.

U.S. movies were entirely absent from competition at China's leading film festival in 2019 — likely because of Donald Trump's U.S.-China trade war.

Iranian family drama Castle of Dreams, directed by Reza Mirkarimi, dominated the key competition categories at the Shanghai International Film Festival's closing awards ceremony Sunday.

The film took the Golden Goblet prizes for best feature and best director, while its lead, Hamed Saberi Behdad, shared best actor honors with Chang Feng, star of Chinese drama The Return.

A jury led Turkish Palme D'or winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan decided Shanghai's winners this year. The jury, which included Chinese actress Tao Zhao and Italian director Paolo Genovese, described Castle of Dreams as "so sure of itself that it doesn't have a single false note throughout its entire duration."

A gentle psychological drama, Castle of Dreams centers on an ex-con (Behdad) who tries to make good for his two small children after many years away.

The night's other big winner in Shanghai was the Georgia-Russia-Sweden co-production Inhale-Exhale, directed by Dito Tsintsadze. The drama claimed the festival's grand jury prize and the best actress award for its lead, Salome Demuria. The jury praised the film for its "truthfulness of human relations, fantastic acting and powerful direction."

The festival's best screenplay prize went to Aleksander Lungin and Pavel Lungin, writers of the Russian war film Brotherhood, which explores the USSR's 1980s misadventures in Afghanistan.

Japan's romantic anime, Ride Your Wave, about a surfer and firefighter who fall in love, triumphed in the festival's animation competition.

There were no U.S. winners in Shanghai this year because American film titles were conspicuously absent across the festival's competition categories. Festival organizers insisted that there were simply no suitably strong American movies submitted to the event in 2019, but many festival attendees in Shanghai speculated that American movies had been iced out of the government-supported event in retaliation for Donald Trump's U.S.-China trade war.

Shanghai's festival ambassador for 2019, action star Wu Jing, led a procession of Chinese talent down the closing ceremony red carpet, while Tom Hiddleston and Milla Jovovich brought some Hollywood glamor to the proceedings.

The Shanghai International Film Festival's full winners list is below.

Best Feature Film?
Castle of Dreams (Iran)

Jury Grand Prix
?Inhale-Exhale (Georgia/Russia/Sweden)

Best Director
?Reza Mirkarimi for Castle of Dreams

Best Actor 
Chang Feng for The Return (China) and Hamed Saberi Behdad for Castle of Dreams (Iran)

Best Actress
?Salome Demuria for Inhale-Exhale (Georgia/Russia/Sweden)

Best Screenplay 
?Aleksander Lungin and Pavel Lungin for Brotherhood (Russia)

Best Cinematography?
Jake Pollock for Spring Tide (China)

Outstanding Artistic Achievement?
Trees Under the Sun (India)

Best Animation Film
?Ride Your Wave (Japan)

Best Documentary Film?
Bridge of Time (Latvia/Lithuania/Estonia)

Best Live Action Short Film
?Nowhere To Put (China)

Best Animated Short Film
?La Noria (Spain)