Film market comes to close with lavish ceremony

BEIJING — Olympic city Beijing put on another impressive closing ceremony Friday as it wrapped the 12th running of the Beijing Screenings.

Pageant, complete with medleys of Chinese movie tunes, tap dancers and even African drummers, was closer to that of a film festival than to that of a private, buyers-only event. But it was a further indication of the country’s determination to take a bigger place on the movie world stage.

In just a couple of years, the Beijing Screenings, organized by China Film Promotion Intl., have considerably raised their game. They were previously held in the dusty premises of China Film Group; this time they took over a Broadway eight-plex in a barely completed shopping mall in the heart of the glitzy Wanfujing district.

Overall, the four-day event hosted 230 guests from 22 territories and put on 110 screenings of 60 Chinese movies. Lineup, which ranged from the excellent to the excruciating, was significant in showcasing the middle ground of China’s output — not big-budget Zhang Yimou spectaculars or the arty stuff that so many Western festivals obsess over.

Titles served up included thriller “The Equation of Love and Death,” character study “Old Fish,” animated pic “Warrior” and a single screening of Zhang Yuan’s new “Dada’s Dance.”

“We don’t normally see this side of China,” said Goran Topalovic, co-director of the New York Asian Film Festival. “It has been an excellent learning experience for me.”

Screening series was paralleled by the inevitable seminars on China’s position in the world and how to improve East-West business flow. Speakers included rising Film Bureau star La Peikang, Shanghai Festival topper Tang Lijun, leading bizzers Yu Dong and Jeffrey Chan, USC professor Stanley Rosen and trade journalists.

The venue of the closing ceremony was further reason for awe: a soundstage 35 miles from the central business district at China Film Group’s new Digital Production Base.

The complex, which was a cluster of muddy construction sites wrapped in green plastic sheeting at this time last year, must now rank as one of Asia’s most ambitious studio complexes. It holds 14 purpose-built stages, which range up to 50,000 square feet in size, and a mix of post facilities.

How many foreign co-productions will be lured to use the studios is not yet clear, but China Film Group has wasted no time in getting its own pics onto the lot. Regularly decorated helmer Li Shaohong (“Blush,” “Baober in Love”) occupies stage 11 with one of just 80 sets to be used in her upcoming TV film based on literary classic “A Dream of Red Mansions.”

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