China biz boom boosts Shanghai fest

Commercial center raises profile of its film event

SHANGHAI — As the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival marks its 12th year, it seeks to shed a reputation as an enthusiastic but marginal event on the global circuit.

The growing importance of the Chinese biz means SIFF now has a more resolute argument to make as to why it’s an important regional platform and market, with a growing global role.

Organizers’ hopes for a higher profile are bolstered by fest’s location in one of the world’s few remaining economic bright spots, where there’s still plenty of funding available for production.

Yet the SIFF event remains very rooted in China. The focus is on Chinese stars and product, and the gathering isn’t easily accessible for non-Chinese speakers. News conferences to announce updates are only in Chinese.

This aspect of the fest is unlikely to change, but fest director Tang Lijun is keen to give it a more international dimension and shake up its slightly sleepy image. Nabbing red-hot Oscar-winning helmer Danny Boyle to chair the jury is a sure sign of this ambition.

Shanghai, China’s most populous city, is secondary in the film biz to Beijing, where the government and the censors sit, where decisions get made and where studios have chosen to locate.

Tang is focusing on areas such as co-productions to help expand SIFF’s remit. “The advantage of co-production will be more remarkable, especially at this crucial moment of global economic crisis,” she says.

She also has launched some small, albeit increasingly important, markets within the event.

Also, for the people of Shanghai, SIFF is an opportunity, rare in China, to watch a host of foreign movies on the bigscreen.

TIP SHEET

When: June 13-21

Where: Shanghai, China

Web: siff.com

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