Shanghai film fest sobered by quake

Wong Kar Wai, Jackie Chan to call for donations

Complete Shanghai film fest coverage

SHANGHAI -- The 11th annual Shanghai International Film Festival will open Saturday with a two-minute short honoring the 70,000 people who lost their lives in the recent earthquake in southwestern China.

At a news conference Friday that conspicuously lacked foreign media, Ren Zhonglun, president of the Shanghai Film Group, said that the Chinese documentary "Olympic Dreamers" will officially open the weeklong festival, an event almost canceled because of the quake.

"We wanted to show that, at this difficult time, we can still appreciate the arts," said Ren, calling "Olympic Dreamers" a "serious" film and adding "we are trying to make this festival more meaningful."

After the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province, marketing for the festival was toned down. For days after the quake, the government barred all media but quake-related news -- no entertainment, no advertising.

Although Chinese media has come back, glitz is still frowned upon. Instead of a red carpet, stars and filmmakers will walk a path of hearts to show "love and concern for the disaster victims," said Ren, just back from Sichuan's capital Chengdu.

Ren said Hong Kong director and SIFF jury chairman Wong Kar Wai and martial arts legend Jackie Chan will appeal to festival guests from around the world to donate what they can to help relieve the 5 million Chinese left homeless by the quake.

SIFF managing director Tang Lijun said the festival will not enforce a dress code but suggested guests wear a green ribbon to symbolize hope.

"The ceremonies have been simplified," she said. "We made a lot of changes in the past month. But we are glad this festival can still go on. Life can still go on and we can share happiness."

Abbreviated festival marketing was a blow to some event sponsors. To make up for the lack of advertising opportunities, cosmetics company Kelti International was invited to participate in the opening press conference.

Kelti vp Joy Ye said that money raised during the festival will go toward setting up film screening venues in the disaster-struck area, "to enrich the daily life of the victims."

Once under way, the festival will feature retrospectives of directors Ingmar Bergman, the Shaw Brothers and Anthony Minghella, who was slated to chair the jury, but died earlier this year.

A SIFF closing film has not yet been announced.

"Everyone was recommending a disaster film. But I wanted a film that would demonstrate beauty and humanity," said Ren, adding that the French movie "A Christmas Tale" is a strong contender.