Eighth annual event bows under private funding

SHANGHAI — Next year, China’s Global Children’s Film Festival will be sponsored and hosted by a private enterprise, which is a first.

Hengdian Group, which runs one of the biggest film and TV studios in the country, will back the festival’s eighth biennial outing, due to take place May 26-June 1.

Hengdian town, where the corporation is based, is situated in the eastern province of Zhejiang and is known affectionately in China as the “Eastern Hollywood.”

It served as the location for thousands of television series and dozens of the most popular films of recent times including Zhang Yimou’s hit “Hero” and Xie Jin’s “The Opium War.”

The Children’s Film Festival has been held every two years since 1989. With its mix of domestic and overseas child-focused movies and audiences made up largely of kids, it is one of a kind in China.

Large demographic

Despite a child population of close to 300 million (out of a total headcount of 1.3 billion), China produces only a limited number of Mandarin-lingo pics aimed at younger aud. Out of around 100 films produced on the mainland last year, only five were geared for children.

All of these were produced by the government-controlled No. 3 Production Co., which took over production of all domestic children’s films from Beijing-based Children’s Film Studio three years ago.

The Children’s Film Studio was founded in 1981 by actress Yu Lan, mother of fifth-generation helmer Tian Zhuangzhuang (“The Blue Kite”), but now handles publicity only.

Foreign fare like the “Harry Potter” series and “Finding Nemo,” which played across the country this summer, take the lion’s share of the box office. “We will try our best to make this film festival a widely known event, and in this way we hope to draw more attention to China’s children’s films,” Hengdian Group board chairman Xu Wenrong was quoted as saying in the local press.

Xu founded the Hengdian Studios in 1996, having made his fortune in the production of magnetic materials in the 1990s. Forbes listed him as the eighth-richest person in China in 2000.

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