Shanghai Festival to Open With WWII Epic 'The Eight Hundred,' Wu Jing to Serve as Ambassador

The Eight Hundred Still 1 - H 2019
Huayi Brothers Media

Notably, given Donald Trump's ongoing U.S.-China trade war, not a single film from North America is included in the Chinese festival's main competition sections this year.

The Shanghai International Film Festival, China's most established cinema event, has unveiled the opening titles and competition selection for its 2019 edition.

The festival will kick off June 15 with a double bill of Chinese WWII epic The Eight Hundred and local drama Beautiful Voyage from filmmaker Zhang Jiarui.

Landing The Eight Hundred as an opener is something of a coup for the Shanghai event. The film, produced by Huayi Brothers with a lavish budget of over $80 million, is the first Chinese action film shot entirely on Imax cameras, and it is expected to become one of the country's biggest event movies of the summer when it opens wide July 5.

Chinese action hero Wu Jing, star of Chinese mega-blockbuster Wolf Warrior 2 and The Wandering Earth, will bring the star power to Shanghai's opening red carpet, serving as the event's official 2019 ambassador. English actor Tom Hiddleston, already well known to local filmgoers as Loki from the Avengers franchise, will help wrap up the festivities by attending the closing ceremony on June 24.

Other stars slated to walk the carpet and participate in SIFF events include X-Men star Nicholas Hoult, Milla Jovovich, Taiwanese actor Chen Bolin, Japanese stars Ayaka Miyoshi and Mao Inoue, and a slew of Chinese talent, including actresses Yao Chen, Ni Ni, Deng Jiajia, Zhou Dongyu and Yong Mei.

Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, winner of the 2014 Cannes Palme d’Or, is presiding over the jury that will decide the winners of SIFF's annual Golden Goblet Awards.

Ceylan is joined on the jury by Chinese actress Zhao Tao, Italian director Paolo Genovese (whose 2016 film Perfect Strangers was remade as Chinese thriller Kill Mobile, earning $93 million last year), Russia’s Aleksey German Jr. (director of the period biopic Dovlatov), Indian hitmaker Rajkumar Hirani (3 Idiots), Mexican producer Nicolas Celis (Roma) and Chinese actor Wang Jingchun (winner of this year's Berlin Silver Bear for best actor).

Shanghai's competition lineup includes a broad sampling of world cinema, with a discernible emphasis on filmmaking from countries located along Chinese president Xi Jinping's geopolitical Belt and Road infrastructure and soft-power project. Notably, given the ongoing U.S.-China trade war and controversy over Canada's arrest of a top executive from Huawei, not a single film from North America made Shanghai's selection this year — a sharp contrast from recent years.

Main competition titles include Russian director Pavel Lungin's war drama Leaving Afghanistan (also known as Brother), Iranian film Castle of Dreams, German family drama Many Happy Returns, Chinese crime film Vortex and Mexican actor Gael García Bernal's directorial debut Chicuarotes, which recently bowed at Cannes (the full SIFF competition lineup is below).

The festival's Asian New Talent Awards, which honor emerging film professionals from the region, will be handed out by a jury headed by Chinese star director Ning Hao (Crazy Alien).

SIFF's documentary and animation sections (see lineups below), meanwhile, will be assessed by juries led by Russian director Viktor Kossakovsky (Aquarela) and Irish filmmaker Tomm Moore (The Breadwinner, The Secret of Kells), respectively.

Altogether, SIFF will screen approximately 500 films across its key competition categories, country specific sidebars and historical retrospectives. Festival organizers said they received more than 3,900 film submissions from 112 countries and regions this year. Local state media were keen to note that nearly half of the applications, over 1,800 titles from 53 countries, came from countries and territories participating in Xi's Belt and Road Initiative.

Below is the Shanghai festival's lineup.

Main Competition Section

BROTHERHOOD (Russia), by Pavel Lungin

CASTLE OF DREAMS (Iran), by Reza Mirkarimi

CHICUAROTES (Mexico), by Gael García Bernal

THE GREAT SPIRIT (Italy), by Sergio Rubini

INHALE-EXHALE (Georgia/ Russia/ Sweden),by Dito Tsintsadze

LANE 4 (Brazil), by Emiliano Cunha

LITTLE NIGHTS, LITTLE LOVE (Japan), by Rikiya Imaizumi

MANY HAPPY RETURNS (Germany), by Carlos A. Morelli

PACARRETE (Brazil), by Allan Deberton

THE RETURN (China), by QIN Hailu

ROSA (Italy/ Slovenia), by Katja Colja

SHYRAKSHY: GUARDIAN OF THE LIGHT (Kazakhstan), by Yermek Tursunov

SPRING TIDE (China), by YANG Lina

TREES UNDER THE SUN (India) by Dr. Biju

VORTEX (China), by Jacky Gan


Documentary Film Section

BRIDGES OF TIME (Latvia/ Lithuania/ Estonia), By Krist?ne Briede and Audrius Stonys

THE FOURTH KINGDOM (Spain), by Adán Aliaga and Àlex Lora

IT'S ALL GOOD (Venezuela / Germany) by Tuki Jencquel

MUTE FIRE (Colombia), by Federico Arteaga



Animation Film Section

DILILI IN PARIS (France / Belgium / Germany), by Michel Ocelot)

LOTTE AND THE LOST DRAGONS (Estonia), by Janno Põldma

LOUIS AND LUCA – MISSION TO THE MOON (Norway), by Rasmus A. Sivertsen

RIDE YOUR WAVE (Japan), by Masaaki Yuasa

SPYCIES (China), by ZHANG Zhiyi and Guillaume Ivernel