Shanghai Film Fest launches

SHANGHAI The hardline Chinese communist government may preach against the encroachment of Western ways, but the first Shanghai International Film Festival is set with 160 films and an international jury including Oliver Stone and Nagima Oshima. Shanghai organizers hope the event will overtake the rival Tokyo Intl. Film Festival as the premier pic event in the pan-Asian theater.

Film fest, organized by the Shanghai Municipal Government, will run October 7 -14. According to festival spokeman, Xu Peng Le, “The financial side is now basically settled at last” and preparations continue apace. Financing for the event, to the tune of “over 10 million RMB” (U.S. $ 1.7 million) came from sources such as Shanghai Television, who have put up 650,000 RMB (U.S. $ 113,630 ) to sponsor the opening and closing ceremonies.

Films from 31 countries and “areas” (Taiwan, Hong Kong), including the United States, England, Italy, Canada, France, India and Japan, have been submitted. Eighteen films have already been pre-selected for competition; no titles will be announced until all the copies are in on September 10 — nearly a month later than scheduled. Of the remainder, 100 will be screened in the exhibition section , the rest not corresponding to undefined and often arbitrary Chinese standards and thus censored.

China has submitted 22 films, which are at the center of a heated controversy: Some are bannedhere, but many claim that if the new, “more open” China is genuinely intended to play by international film festival rules, these films must be shown.

The hardliners stick to their arbitrary “Chinese standard” guns. No compromise has yet been reached.

Other events include retrospectives of Chinese directors Xie Jin and Zhang Yimou, a selection of Shanghai films and, the organizers hope, special Oliver Stone and Nagisa Oshima retrospectives.

Stone, Oshima and Xie Jin will also be part of the nine-man jury, along with Hong Kong director Xu Ke, Roland Joffe, Idrissa Ouedraogo (Burkhina Faso), Hector Babenco and two still to be confirmed, possibly from Russia and India. Sophia Loren is scheduled to attend as one of the many honored guests.

Wish list

Other hoped-for celebs include Akira Kurosawa, Richard Attenborough, Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman, but the list is far from finalized.

As for concerns over piracy, Xu believes the fears of copyright infringements and other such irregularities have been quelled by the festival’s recent inclusion as a member of the International Producer’s Association.

The Chinese fest organizers bravely laugh off the threat from their chief rival, Tokyo (Sept. 24-Oct.3), but whisperings indicate a later timeslot for the next festival.

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