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This story first appeared in the June 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
When the Shanghai International Film Festival launched its film market in June 2008, critics questioned the wisdom of hosting an industry event so close to Cannes’ Marche du Film. Today, the skepticism largely has dissipated, thanks to domestic companies that previously clamored for the glamour of the French Riviera now coming home to cultivate their own rapidly maturing film industry — meaning Shanghai’s significance within the Chinese film industry is not to be underestimated. Highlights of the event:
1. CHINA’S LATEST FILM SLATE
The festival will host announcements and premieres from China’s biggest film companies, including Huayi Brothers, which canceled its Cannes plans and now will unveil its slate and host its annual bash June 16. Its closest rival, Bona Film Group, has the action blockbuster Unbeatable from Dante Lam in the festival’s Golden Goblet competition. Le Vision Pictures, which recently recruited Zhang Yimou as its artistic director, will announce new ventures dedicated to cultivating talent in the industry. “The festival ends just as students finish their school term,” says Shen Yang, deputy program director. “Now that Chinese producers are more savvy about scheduling, they know that the festival is an important platform for publicity before blockbuster season begins.”
2. THE RACE FOR THE GOLDEN GOBLET
Though Shanghai is still a junior partner to its more established A-list festival peers, this year’s competition slate offers more diversity than past editions. Local titles vying for the Golden Goblet include Sherwood Hu‘s basketball drama Amazing, which like Unbeatable is making its world premiere, and art house fare from around the world like the Michael Caine starrer Mr. Morgan’s Last Love from Canada, the mixed martial arts drama Fists of Legend from Korea and the historical epic I Am You from Bulgaria.
3. A HOOPER AND A STONE
Les Miserables director Tom Hooper will serve as president of the Golden Goblet jury, and Oliver Stone will fly in to receive an Outstanding Achievement award and host a master class. “I was on the jury for the first Shanghai festival in 1993, and I have an apartment in Beijing,” Stone tells THR. The director spent years developing films in China, though he only shot one, a short for the Beijing Olympics. “One of the highlights of going back to Shanghai will be showing my new 3-hour, 20-minute cut of Alexander and one hour of my Untold History of the United States, about the bomb.” Stone says he may still direct a film in China: “Listen, I never give up.”
4. SOME SILENT HITCH
A major boost to the festival’s A-list cred is the showcase of nine Alfred Hitchcock silent films made between 1925 and 1929. Part of the festival’s Tribute to Masters event — which has featured the work of Akira Kurosawa and Krzysztof Kieslowski — this showcase precedes the one scheduled for the prestigious restored-classics festival Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, Italy, in early July.
5. THE PROJECT MARKET
It’s a consensus that it’s not the lack of capital that worries Chinese film execs, it’s the dearth of talent. That makes project markets like Shanghai’s an ideal forum for networking among aspiring filmmakers and producers and financiers. The project has yielded results: Young filmmakers whose work has gone on to festival acclaim include Han Jie (the Locarno entry Hello! Mr Tree) and Quan Ling (Forgetting to Know You, which screened in Berlin this year). Says Shen: “Through the forums and the project markets and the co-production market, which pushes for cross-cultural partnerships, it’s all about the whole market serving as an incubator for the industry.”
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