Feng: Glamour key to fest success
EmptySHANGHAI -- Feng Xiaogang, director of the upcoming Chinese civil war picture "The Assembly," had a few choice words on Sunday for his Shanghai compatriots about how to organize a film festival.
"There are two things missing," Feng said from the sidelines of the 10th Shanghai International Film Festival where he's promoting "The Assembly" before its December 21 premiere.
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"The festival lacks an active film market," Feng said -- it's overloaded with producers and hosts few distributors -- "and it needs international media attention."
His proposed solution for both? More glamour.
"If there are more parties, then there are more stars, and producers will want to bring their films to the festival for promotion" he said.
Feng's producers, the Beijing-based Huayi Brothers, planned just such a fete for Sunday night, one festival guests expected to out-do a party hosted by the organizers on Saturday after the opening ceremony. (It wound down before midnight).
The state run China Film Group launches ts inaugural Film Market at the Shanghai festival on Monday.
But Feng's straightforward talk is not reserved for Shanghai.
His popular contemporary films "Cell Phone" (2003) and "A World Without Thieves" (2004) made the filmmake -- up until the 2006 imperial court epic "The Banquet" -- a favorite of average Chinese movie fans, who often paid the high price of admission once a year just to see his work.
At 49, Feng said that despite his view that star power can help festivals, he resents the accusations of China's state-controlled media that "The Banquet," was his attempt to copy the success of the star-driven overseas hits "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Hero."
Feng also dislikes how quickly Western media lumped "The Banquet" together with "Curse of the Golden Flower" (Zhang Yimou) and "The Promise" (Chen Kaige), crying that they were "one film."
Skirting the role that censors play in Chinese filmmaking, Feng says that too many young Chinese directors today are making movies to please international film festival juries, instead of their home audience.
"At some stage, you have to choose which you want more," he said. "The world only needs one Wong Kar-wai," referring to the Hong Kong art house director whose "My Blueberry Nights" opened Cannes this year to mixed reviews.
China strictly controls what movies get screened, barring films deemed challenging to the Communist Party or offensive to censors. Regulations effectively limit film imports to 20 each year.
Feng said he's tired of young directors whose films fail at the boxoffice accusing him, Zhang and Chen of hogging all the screens in China.
"Even if I stopped making movies, theirs wouldn't succeed," he said, adding that the days of theaters filing all their screens with one blockbuster at a time are fast coming to an end. "Now the market is deciding what works."
On schedule and on budget, Feng said "The Assembly" -- about an army officer facing down the demons of war and betrayal in Japanese-occupied China in the 1940s -- will remind critics he is a people's director.
"They say they represent the audience and that the audience wants to see stars, but I know the audience better," Feng said. "It's not necessary to cast stars to succeed."
"The Assembly" features a cast of unknowns, whereas "The Banquet," which earned 150 million yuan ($19.2 million) at the box office, starred Zhang Ziyi.
"It's high risk, but I'm hopeful that 'The Assembly' will beat 'The Banquet' at the boxoffice," Feng said.