Shanghai Film Fest to Open With Restored Chinese Classic, Close With 'Transformers: Age of Extinction'

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Chinese fest finalized its lineup Thursday, with Hollywood stars Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Hayden Christensen also scheduled to attend.

No one can accuse the 17th Shanghai International Film Festival of lacking in diversity or international appeal.

The festival in China’s financial hub and most cosmopolitan city will open with the restored classic Two Stage Sisters, a film from 1964 about two actresses in pre-revolutionary China, and close with a movie from half a century later that is almost its total opposite -- Transformers: Age of Extinction.

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The festival has also announced the remaining four of 15 films competing for the Golden Goblet, and has added a few countries to the fest’s impressive checklist of international competitors.

They are Brad Anderson’s Eliza Graves, a psychological thriller from Nu Image/Millennium featuring Kate Beckinsale and Jim Sturgess, Yoon Hong-seung’s Korean action thriller The Target, Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden’s The Sacred Arrow and Aaron Wilson’s WW2 jungle survival story, Canopy.

The jury at the fest will be led by Chinese actress Gong Li, the first time a woman has headed the jury and reflecting the festival’s theme of women in cinema.

The Shanghai fest is a major fixture on the Asian film calendar, and it attracts more attention every year, especially now that China is the world’s second biggest film market.

The introduction of the Beijing film festival four years ago means Shanghai no longer has it all its own way, but its international dimension has ensured it keeps its profile high.

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The jury also includes Korean director Im Sang-soo, British director Sally Potter, Danish director Lone Scherfig, Chinese director Liu Jie, Iranian actor Peyman Moaadi and Japanese director Shunji Iwai.

The organizers have always tried to emphasize the international dimension, and this year will see some big names from overseas, including Nicole Kidman, who will bring Grace of Monaco to the festival, and Natalie Portman, who will attend the closing ceremony.

Also attending the fest will be Kirsten Dunst, Hugh Grant and Hayden Christensen, who features in Nicholas Powell's Outcast, and Korean stars Rain, Son Tae-yeong and Song Seung-heon.

Local talent scheduled to attend includes John Woo, Jiang Wen, Jackie Chan, Nicholas Tse, Li Bingbing and Gao Yuanyuan.

The choice of such wildly diverse films to open and close the fest is a bold reflection of how diverse the Chinese film industry has become over the years.

Two Stage Sisters, directed by Xie Jin, has been color- and 4K-restored, and it chronicles the differing financial and political fortunes of two actresses before the revolution in 1949 that brought the Communist Party to power.

The competition lineup includes John Carney’s Begin Again, Bangladeshi director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s Ant Story and Volker Schlöndorff’s Diplomatie.

Tom Waller’s The Last Executioner, about the last executioner in Thailand, will have its world premiere in competition, and the Golden Goblet will also feature Little England (Mikra Anglia), a Greek film directed by Pantelis Voulgaris and the coming-of-age drama Maiko wa Lady by the Japanese director Masayuki Suo.

Predestination by Michael and Peter Spierig, Elle l'adore by Jeanne Herry and the Iranian film Snow, directed by Mehdi Rahmani, also feature.

The Uncle Victory, by Zhang Meng, who directed the popular The Piano in a Factory, will compete for the Golden Goblet, as will The Woods Are Still Green by the German director Marko Nabersnik.

The festival received an unprecedented 1,099 submissions for the Golden Goblet Award and 1,808 for the Film Panorama, organizers said, and will screen around 900 films in 35 theaters this year.

Meanwhile, the Mobile SIFF competition will open at the Shanghai Convention & Exhibition Centre on June 15. Chinese director Teng Huatao will preside over the jury, while Tokyo International Film Festival Best Actor winner Wang Jingchun and Korea film critic Darcy Paquet will be on the jury.

The Mobile SIFF competition includes categories such as best internet micro films, best short films and international students short films.

A total of 1,951 films from 85 countries and regions including 1,451 overseas films, and 25 films were ultimately chosen for the final competition.

The award ceremony on June 19 will announce winners from 15 feature films, five documentary films and five animation films.

The event is staged in cooperation with popular Chinese websites, PPTV, Sohu Video, QQLive, Youku Tudou. It will also hold a series of forums and exhibitions.

The Shanghai festival is scheduled to run June 14-22.

Twitter: @cliffordcoonan