Shanghai fest keeps its int’l flavor

China's quota system, piracy are hot topics at event

SHANGHAI — Despite government threats to downgrade it to a local event, the “international” part of the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival is still very much in evidence here.

China’s only A-grade festival, running June 11-20 includes appearances by high profile industry figures such as Harvey Weinstein and Jackie Chan, both speaking at industry film forums that are an integral part of the proceedings.

Of the 200 films being screened at the eighth edition, approximately 160 are foreign. Indeed, there was concern that there would be no local films in competition this year, the centenary of Chinese cinema. Helmer Huang Jianxin’s “Gimme Kudos” and Huo Jianqi’s “A Time to Love” were added to the list of 17 films up for the Jinjue (Golden Goblet) Awards. This year’s forums have included frank discussions of China’s strengths and weaknesses as a film production base and as a market for foreign movies.

Views are mixed about China’s quota system, which limits imported films played theatrically in China to around 20 a year. Some panelists believe restrictions should be lifted, while others said the domestic industry would be bludgeoned into extinction without it.

Piracy is has been a hot topic, with heated debate often conducted in the presence of ministers from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (Sarft), a sign of openness not seen in previous years.

There continues to be wrinkles with the fest org, however.

SIFF has never decided if its main function is as a film competition, commercial fair (witness the concurrent TV fest, where the emphasis is on buying and selling programs) or a public event (last year’s fest grossed nearly $1 million in ticket sales, a significant part of the city’s B.O.).

The programming of mainstream (and long-in-the-tooth) fare such as “Collateral” and “Meet the Fockers” alongside more obvious fest material in the Panorama section makes the contradictions clear.

Ticketing also once again has been a problem, with no centralized system to buy ducats. In some places the numbered seating system has been canceled, causing chaos as audiences scrabble for seats.

But in a sign of continued reform, this year’s New Asian Talent Award jury is being chaired by formerly banned helmer Jia Zhangke, who made his first appearance at SIFF last year as a panelist on one of the debates.

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