Event shows more pics on bigscreen by circumventing import quota, censorship

The Shanghai Intl. Film Festival is China’s only A-grade film event and acts as a bridge between the local and international biz.

“It’s the largest film festival in China,” says Jo Yan, vice president of sales for Buena Vista Intl. Asia. “Almost every local producer, distributor and exhibitor will attend, and all major U.S. studios support the event in various capacities. This is the only event that boasts this kind of participation in China.

“It provides a platform for the exchange of ideas and to improve understanding of the Chinese theatrical market as well as between local and overseas players,” Jo says.

The festival gives international distribs an opportunity to circumvent China’s import quota, allowing them to show more pics on the bigscreen and avoid the strict censorship that applies to releases in mainstream theaters.

“The festival, with the support of various levels of government, has made it possible for many films from all over the world to be shown to the public on the bigscreen, and this even includes films with sensitive subject matter. In this respect, it has given the festival a true international feel,” Yan says.

“Through these opportutunities, we hope more people will be exposed to our products and hopefully a solid foundation will have been built for our films when the market truly opens up,” says Yan.

The festival is a place for Chinese producers to meet their international counterparts and sound out co-production opportunities, and a chance for local orgs to tout the city’s locations and facilities.

“The festival has close links with the Shanghai film industry and with the global business,” says Lijune Tang, the fest’s managing director.

This year, a large delegation of London producers is being flown to the fest, with the British government picking up the bill. A U.K.-China co-production treaty is expected to be sealed in the near future, paving the way for more U.K. pics to shoot in the city.

Zhaohui Wang of Rosat Film Prods. is confident that Brit crews will be joined by those from other countries.

“As one of the most lively and booming cities in China, Shanghai has attracted many foreign productions. Local production people have gained valuable experience working with foreign crews, much more than those in other cities, which is why most international co-productions are shot in the city,” says Wang.

The festival also acts as a showcase for local pics and gives emerging talent the chance to be noticed.

Wang praises the efforts of the fest in this respect, but says it still has some ways to go.

“It should be more of a platform for Chinese cinema,” she says. “More foreign producers have come to the festival in recent years, but it hasn’t always matched their expectations. It has a lot of potential, and you can see changes are being made. In the past few years they have been trying hard to improve the program and get more stars to attend.”

Tang emphasizes the event’s efforts to attract international visitors. “We have received positive feedback about the festival’s international dimension,” she says. “The jury is very international and its president is high-profile — Luc Besson (as prexy), for example.”

More than 700 pics were submitted for entry this year, a 38% rise on the previous edition.

“We are young and trying to grow,” says Tang.

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