BEIJING — China’s most popular helmer Feng Xiaogang scooped the feature film award at the Beijing Film Festival for his famine pic “Back to 1942,” as the third edition of the fest closed in the Chinese capital on Tuesday.
Feng’s chronicle of a deadly famine in Henan province during WWII also won for visual effects in the fest’s inaugural Tiantan Awards.
Feng was unable to attend, so the award was picked up by producer Wang Zhongjun, scribe Liu Zhenyun and thesps Zhang Guoli and Xufan.
“This movie has a serious theme, with heavy emotions and looks at human nature. It dares to examine people’s lives in dark times. There was a vacuum in this area of filmmaking in China and this film filled that gap,” said Wang.
Feng’s movie chimed with an event that was uppermost on people’s minds — the earthquake that struck Sichuan province at the weekend and killed at least 188 people.
The red carpet at the closing event was changed to blue to commemorate the casualties of the Ya’an quake, while stars toned down their appearance and carried white roses to mark their mourning for the victims. Helmer Chen Kaige recited a poem to express his sorrow about the earthquake.
Chinese star Yan Bingyan won actress for her role in Wang Jing’s “Feng Shui,” while Terence Stamp won actor for “Song for Marion,” which also won screenplay.
Cate Shortland won director for “Lore,” while Helena Bonham Carter scooped supporting actress for “Great Expectations” and Vahagn Simonyan won supporting actor for the Armenian film “If Only Everyone,” which also won in the music category.
Canadian-French co-production “Inch’Allah” won a special jury award.
The Tiantan jury was led by Russian filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov, and the fest featured a retrospective of his work. Also on the jury was Toronto Film Festival artistic director Cameron Bailey, British helmer Ivor Benjamin, Australian producer Geoff Brown, South Korea’s Kang Je-gyu and Chinese helmers Gu Changwei and Zhang Yibai.
The awards honored a cross-section of international and Chinese stars, underlining the fest’s mandate of reflecting the heady growth of the Chinese biz while reaching out to Hollywood and other overseas markets.
Organizers emphasized fest’s international scale, as a strong film biz is central to China’s efforts to push “soft power” around the world, and show that it can match its remarkable economic rise with serious cultural credentials.
Over the fest’s eight days, Hollywood bigwigs including DreamWorks Animation topper Jeffrey Katzenberg and Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy were in attendance, and announced major deals while in town.
It closed with a performance at the Chinese National Convention Center, featuring international stars including Sarah Brightman and Jackie Chan.
Brightman is enormously popular in China, and she wowed auds with a performance of the “Phantom of the Opera” theme song. Chopsocky legend Chan displayed his kung fu skills with Taiwanese star Jay Chou.
Also attending were helmers Zhang Yimou, John Woo, Luc Besson and Keanu Reeves.