Beijing Film Festival Aims for International Flavor

Beijing Intl. Film Festival organizers have given this year’s event a stronger international flavor and more high-tech elements, moves that reflect the Chinese industry’s desire to go global. Festival runs April 16-23.

One big change? This fourth edition features an opening-night screening — something that is standard at other festivals, but which the first three Beijing fests dispensed with, in favor of a pomp and circumstance show befitting the city’s status in the emerging world order and its powerhouse backers, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and the Beijing city government.

“The norm for major international film festivals around the world is for the opening film to enjoy a good reputation and respect within the industry. To reflect the international … and market-oriented nature of BJIFF, the organizing committee decided on ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ” a festival spokesman says. The Franco-German romantic fantasy by Asiaphile French director Christophe Gans starring Vincent Cassel and Lea Seydoux, pictured above, will kick off proceedings on April 16.

The screening series, dubbed the Beijing Film Panorama, comprises some 260 local and international movies, organized in 15 sections and scattered across the giant city.

Titles range from recently restored classics, such as the 1928 British silent drama “Underground” by Anthony Asquith and Roberto Rossellini’s 1945 classic and influential “Rome Open City,” to the spectacular in the newly introduced category Splendid, Immersive — the Imax Film Panorama.

The Imax Panorama will feature 2D screenings of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” as well as Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster.”

Getting 3D treatment are “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “The Avengers” and “Gravity.” Four Imax 3D documentaries — “Hubble,” “Under the Sea,” “Born to Be Wild” and “Journey to the South Pacific,” which has not previously screened in China — will unspool. Given Chinese audiences passion for Imax and the 3D format, these seem set to attract healthy crowds.

And, while the Tiantan competition section presents a censorship-friendly, best-of-festivals selection of features ranging from 2012-14, the section’s jury of global film heavyhitters gives an idea of what the BJIFF is about: leading the jury is filmmaker John Woo, Spanish film producer Andres Vicente Gomez, Irish director Jim Sheridan, Italian actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta and Indian director Rajkumar Hirani.

Titles in the section include “Carmen” by Doru Nitescu; “Ilo Ilo” by Anthony Chen; “The Rocket” by Kim Mordaunt; “Third Person” by Paul Haggis; and Peter Chan’s “American Dreams in China.”

The serious stuff, the three seminars, are also programmed to grab headlines. Among the local and international celebrities expected to participate are A-list directors and senior industry executives. A forum on Sino-foreign film co-production includes filmmaker Oliver Stone, Motion Picture Assn. of America CEO-chairman Chris Dodd, “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuaron, Paramount Pictures chief operating officer Frederick Huntsberry and British producer Peter Ziering.
Two other forums — one on creativity, another on the beauty of film — are set to include French director Jean-Jacques Annaud, Brazilian animation director Carlos Saldanha (“Rio 2”); and the U.K.’s Peter Lord, co-founder of Aardman Animations.

The Beijing Film Market, running April 17-19, switches again to another new venue — this time at the China Millennium Monument — and is expected to put more emphasis on post-production, technology and film locations rather than rights trading. A series of platforms will be given to participating film location companies, tech and post-prod firms to show off their wares.

Meanwhile, the festival will join hands with the MPAA to host the Hollywood Film Masters Training initiative, in which established U.S. talent will conduct classes for young Chinese filmmakers.

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