'Love Letter' Director to Head New Talent Jury at Shanghai Int'l FIlm Fest

Shunji Iwai is best known in China for his 1995 teen romance film.

BEIJING – Love Letter director Shunji Iwai of Japan will lead the Asian New Talent Award Jury at the 14th Shanghai International Film Festival this June 11-19, organizers said on Monday.

Established in 2004, the Asian New Talent Award is second only in prestige to the SIFF’s main competition for the Golden Cup, whose jury this year is chaired by Oscar-winning Hollywood director Barry Levinson (Rain Man).

The Asian New Talents Award is meant to encourage and introduce to the world the works of up and coming Asian filmmakers.

Director Iwai is best known in China for his 1995 teen romance film Love Letter, starring Miho Nakayama, which set a trend in moviemaking for a new generation of young Asian filmmakers and filmgoers. It was released in the U.S. as When I Close My Eyes.

The organizing committee of the eighth edition of the Asian New Talents Awards will give a total of 300,000 yuan ($45,943) in cash prizes to the winners of the best picture and best director.

Asian New Talents Award finalists will be announced in May and the awards ceremony is set for June 17, when Iwai and five additional judges will announce the winners.

Past Asian New Talent Awards winners include China's Ning Hao (Crazy Stone) and Zhang Meng (The Piano in a Factory), Taiwan's Lin Shuyu (Winds of September) and Barbara Wong of Hong Kong (Perfect Wedding), among others.

Former Asian New Talents judges include Tian Zhuangzhuang, ​​He Ping, Jia Zhangke and Joan Chen from China and Im Kwon-taek Bong Joon-ho of South Korea, among others.

Iwai’s ties to Shanghai go back to 2002, at the 6th Shanghai International Film Festival, when his film All About Lily Chou-Chou was a finalist for the Golden Cup, called the jin jue in Chinese. Earlier that year, the film won the Berlin International Film Festival’s The C.I.C.A.E. Panorama Prize.

The 2009 film Halfway, which Iwai produced for director Eriko Kitagawa, also was a Golden Cup finalist.

The addition of Iwai to the SIFF jury comes days before the start of the 1st Beijing International Film Festival, which has no competition component in its inaugural outing, beginning April 23.