Werner Herzog's 'Salt and Fire' to Premiere at Shanghai Film Festival

Werner Herzog GETTY - H 2016
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The 19th edition of the Chinese fest also features retrospectives dedicated to Woody Allen and Tarkovsky, with Sir Ian McKellen leading a discussion of Shakespeare and a special "suprise" promised involving J.K. Rowling.

German auteur Werner Herzog's volcano disaster film Salt and Fire, starring Michael Shannon, Gael García Bernal and Veronica Ferres, will make its world premiere at the Shanghai International Film Festival later this month, organizers revealed Thursday.

Herzog’s nineteenth fictional feature, Salt and Fire is described as an environmentalist thriller. It follows a scientist and a corporate CEO who are forced to team up despite their ideological differences when a remote South American supervolcano begins to erupt. The movie was shot last year on the salt flats of Bolivia, a characteristically harsh Herzogian setting.

Among the other titles competing against Herzog in the fest’s main competition section include Mr. Church from Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Mao’s Last Dancer), Chinese director Cao Baopin’s Coke and Bull and The Projects from Japanese filmmaker Junji Sakamoto. (See the full competition lineup below.)

This 19th edition of the Shanghai festival, set to run June 11-19, features the event’s usual blend of high-minded retrospectives and crowd-pleasing sidebars. Much loved locally, the fest gives Shanghai residents a chance to see films they wouldn't normally get to experience in theaters, as China's censorship regime is momentarily relaxed.

Serbian auteur Emir Kusturica will chair the jury presiding over this year's main competition section, which awards the festival’s Golden Goblet Awards. Other jurors include Atom Egoyan, Daniele Luchetti, Pema Tseden, Karena Lam, Abderrahmane Sissako and Yan Geling.

Elsewhere in the program, the event will feature retrospectives dedicated to the works of Luchino Visconti, Andre Tarkovsky, Woody Allen and the late Hong Kong star Leslie Cheung. Allen's most recent film, Cafe Society, which debuted in Cannes last month, will receive its Asian premiere in Shanghai.

Organizers also have put together a program of Shakespearean films to celebrate the 400th anniversary of English playwright’s death. Sir Ian McKellen will be in attendance to discuss his lifelong commitment to performing Shakespeare’s works on the stage and screen, following a showing of Richard III (1995), in which he starred.

Japanese and Korean sidebars highlight East Asian regional favorites, such as Kyoshi Kurosawa's thriller Creepy and Lee Joon-ik's period epic The Throne. In the art house arena, Laszlo Nemes' Oscar winner Son of Saul will receive a special screening, while genre cinema is well served with a section of James Bond classics and the second annual Jackie Chan Action Movie Week, featuring 20 cutting-edge contemporary action flicks from around the world in a program overseen by Chan himself. Documentary and animation competitive sections also are planned (the lineups are below).

All eight of the Harry Potter movies also will be screened, with organizers promising that some of sort of “surprise” involving J.K. Rowling herself will take place during the fest. A lineup of Oscar-winning titles from 2015 rounds out the Hollywood involvement in the event, including Spotlight, The Big Short, Room, Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl, Steve Jobs and Joy.

Main Competition:

Coke and Bull, Cao Baoping, director
De Lan, Liu Jie, director
Flowers of Evil, Antti Jokinen, director
Forest, 4 am, Jan Jakub Kolski, director
Hanna’s Sleeping Dogs, Andreas Gruber, director
Hamog, Ralston Jover, director
Hear the Silence, Ed Ehrenberg, director
In Embryo, Ulrich Thomsen, director
Mr. Church, Bruce Beresford, director
The Projects, Sakamoto Junji, director
Salt and Fire, Werner Herzog, director
See You in Texas, Vito Palmieri, director
Soul on a String, dZhang Yang, director
Sound and Fury, Hooman Seyadi, director

Documentary Film Competition:

The Girl Who Saved My Life, Hogir Hirori, director
Mr. Gaga, Tomer Heymann, director
Roof of the World, Cang Hairuo, director
We Are X, Stephen Kijak, director
When Two Worlds Collide, Heidi Brandenburg, Mathew Orzel, directors

Animated Film Competition:

April and the Extraordinary World, Christian Desmares, Franck Ekinci, directors
Molly Monster, Ted Sieger, director
Pat and Mat, Marek Benes, director
Rock Dog, Ash Brannon, director
Yokai Watch, Takahashi Shigeruharu, director