Shanghai closes high, dry

Festival ends on cosmopolitan note

A screening of "The Flight of the Red Balloon" brought the 10th Shanghai International Film Festival to a gentle landing following the closing Jin Jue awards ceremony at Shanghai's Grand Theater, with some of the film's Asian stars making a show of support for their film. The film, written and directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, has been characterized as an homage to the 1956 Albert Lamorisse classic "The Red Balloon."

As a sign that the SIFF, held in China's most cosmopolitan city, is trying to meet its aspiration to become a truly world-class festival, the closing ceremony was a well-organized and well-attended event. There was a host of big name Asian stars including Jackie Chan, Gong Li, Aaron Kwok ("After This Our Exile") and director Hou.

The top award went to the German film "According to the Plan" by Franziska Meletzky; the jury Grand Prix was taken by the Swedish film "The New Man" by Klaus Haro; and Tian Zhuangzhuang garnered best director for China's "The Go Master."

Production designer Phillip Vasels said it was a well-executed event, especially compared with the previous night's Asian New Talent Award ceremony, where he was one of the intrepid guests to brave the monsoon that struck just before the ceremony, flooding streets and making travel difficult. Still, the event was filled to capacity, though it was delayed for some time as water poured into the venue and neither the sound system nor the translations were up to par.

The Asian New Talent Award is the only festival award with prizes; it aims to find and support young filmmakers from Asia, which will help them to contribute to the film art and the industry. Zendai Group sponsored this year's award, offering 150,000 RMB ($19,700) each for the best film and best director categories. In addition, the Zhoushan government provides each winner with 300,000 RMB ($39,300) worth of film studio use.

"Bliss," directed by China's Shen Zhiming, took best film, while Bangledeshi Golam Rabbany Biplob's "On the Wings of Dreams" was awarded best director. "The Case" was selected as the College Students' Favorite Asian Film; no jury prize was awarded this year.

Vasels and other guests noted that this year's festival showed great progress compared with previous years, especially in the quality of its seminars and forums. Others complained that this year's film screenings suffered because of a lack of organization, and screenings were rescheduled, changed venue or were canceled without notice.