Zhang’s ‘Seventeen’ secures Venice slot

Taboo Chinese filmmaker gets last spot for 56th Fest

LOCARNO, Switzerland — Controversial mainland Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yuan’s “Seventeen Years” is the final title chosen to compete in the 56th Venice Intl. Film Festival, which runs Sept. 1-11.

Billed as an Italian production of a Chinese film, the drama, about a young woman’s painful reunion with her family after a long prison term for killing her stepsister, was backed by Fabrica, the Benetton group’s arts support foundation, based in Treviso, Italy, where post-production was carried out. Italian distrib Istituto Luce and pubcaster RAI also have a stake in the production.

“I’m very pleased that Zhang Yuan’s film has been made available for competition,” Venice fest director Alberto Barbera said. “There’s no doubt that this is a greatly anticipated film after the success obtained in major international festivals by his previous works.”

Exploring taboo topics

All of Zhang’s features have focused on the problems of contemporary Chinese society, invariably tackling subjects considered taboo in that country. These include mental disability in “Mama,” disenfranchised youth in “Beijing Bastards” and homosexuality in “East Palace, West Palace.”

Based on a true story, his latest film represents the first time cameras have been taken inside a Chinese women’s prison.

The director’s new docu-feature, “Crazy English,” about a charismatic teacher who preaches success strategies to the Chinese masses, had its world premiere last week during the Locarno Film Festival. Locarno fest chief Marco Muller served as associate producer on “Seventeen Years,” which is being sold internationally by Paris-based Celluloid Dreams.

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