Fest takes break for biz

Shanghai event grows in glamour, activities

SHANGHAI — The Shanghai Film Festival took a breather after the first four days. The break gave some a moment for reflection. Others used it for more personal activities.

Some jury members scuttled out of town for day trips to Beijing or local sightseeing visits and many Asian executives followed the example of the three day TV market and packed their bags. The visiting delegation of European producers and studio heads took the opportunity to visit the giant Hengdian studios three hours away.

The local press has delighted in the perceived number of stars at the festival and its growing glamour quotient. A party at the house of TV presenter and cosmetics queen Yue-Sai Kan attracted guests including Andie MacDowell, Hiroyuki Sanada, Natasha Richardson, Liam Neesson and Sigourney Weaver.

But others have been tied up for long hours in meeting rooms as the festival boosts quantity of forums and seminars. One on similarities between Hollywood and the Chinese film industry attracted heavyweights including “Superman” producer Christopher Lee, local CAA topper Peter Loehr, Huayi Bros co-prexy Wang Zhonglei, ubiquitous helmer Feng Xiaogang and Ang Lee. Lee avoided discussing why “Brokeback Mountain” had not been released in China and instead told his aud: “Chinese films should preserve their own character, because no matter how hard you try to imitate the Hollywood style, your movies won’t be more Hollywood-like than their own movies.”

Following day’s event on Sino-European co-production attracted criticism for its prolonged six hour duration and for a format which meant a dozen people on stage and little chance for discussion. Most gave carefully prepared speeches and broke little new ground.

Festival has also frustrated many would-be spectators. In some cases movies were shown without sub-titles. In many more instances the clunky ticketing system meant that screenings were often sold out. But the lucky few who did get in reported that many supposedly-full theaters were less than 50% occupied.

Fest picked up speed again and turned its focus to the future Thursday. Events included a Sino-U.S. student film program and a presentation by Hong Kong’s Focus Films of its “First Cuts” initiative, which gives young helmers from across the region the low budget tools to experiment.

Weekend’s activities includes an Edward Norton retrospective, a series of different award ceremonies and, Sunday, the closing ceremony, competition prize-giving and closing film “Volver.”

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