China festival an A-list event

Shanghai fest attracts 750 submissions

SHANGHAI – China’s movie industry was in celebratory mood as the ninth frame of the Shanghai Film Festival got underway Saturday. And it seemed much of the world wants to join in.

Hu Zhongfan, vice minister at the State Administration for Radio Film and Television, was able to describe a “new century of Chinese cinema,” as he pointed to country’s growing B.O., a record number of movie productions and an expanding number of movie theaters.

The Shanghai festival, rarely bracketed alongside Cannes, Berlin or Venice, has a creditable competition, albeit with few world preems, and attracted an impressive 750 submissions from around the globe. Jury headed by French helmer Luc Besson, is also of the highest caliber, including helmer Feng Xiaogang, talented multihyphenate Xu Jinglei, Gabrielle Salvatores and Blighty’s “Four Weddings And A Funeral” producer Duncan Kenworthy.

With the Pudong airport still crammed with heads of state departing the Asian security convention, Hollywood queen Nicole Kidman dropped by for a few hours and underlined China’s growing “must include” reputation. Apparently on her way to her own wedding in Oz, Kidman did not stay for the opening ceremony at Shanghai Concert Hall. But the almost flawless bash nevertheless attracted a Hollywood and local celebrity quotient that was far from B-list.

Red carpet witnessed passage of Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson, Hugh Jackman, Andie MacDowell, Ron Silver, Jackie Chan, Nicholas Tse, Tsui Hark, Joan Chen, Simon Yam, Zhou Xun, Gu Changwei and veteran helmer Xie Jin.

Taiwan-based Oscar-winning helmer Ang Lee was also on hand to receive award for outstanding contribution to Chinese cinema.

Fest’s significance as a media launch pad is clearly growing. In addition to sessions for the festival pictures, opening days have seen junkets and press conferences for Feng’s upcoming “The Banquet,” and Wilson Yip’s “Dragon Tiger Gate.” Some of the biggest crowds to date turned out for “Telephone 601” an upcoming comedy featuring Zhou Bichang, a bespectacled youngster who became a huge instant celebrity when she was runner-up in “Supergirl,” a Chinese “Pop Idol” derivative. Press conferences are attended by scores of camera crews, hundreds of photographers and a small army of bloggers filing live opinion and digital pictures from laptops and camera phones.

Among the more formal diplomatic initiatives, festival and the 12th incarnation of the accompanying Shanghai TV Market have both welcomed offical delegations from the UK, Germany, Mexico and New Zealand.

Mart opened Sunday across town in two NATPE-scale halls at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre. Paid-for admission for the general public allows fans more chances to meet their TV idols and raises the decibels to ear-splitting level. But it makes a reading of how much business was being done that much harder.

It certainly appeared as though all 9,000 of China’s local and regional TV stations were in attendance. Foreign firms making their pitch included Walt Disney, ESPN, Endemol, Blighty’s Granada International, Japan’s NHK, Tokyo Broadcasting Systems, India’s Zee TV, Italy’s RAI Trade, Germany’s Beta Cinema, Bavaria Media and Deutsche Welle and Poland’s Telewizja Polska.

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