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Valenti tries thawing relations with China

Dignitary's visit starts buzz for Chinese fest

Hoping to open the doors for theatrical releases of U.S. films in China, Motion Picture Assn. of America chair and CEO Jack Valenti gave a hearty welcome Thursday to Chinese Deputy Consul General Madame Deng Ying.

Personally drumming up buzz for next month’s MPAA-hosted Chinese Film Festival (which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China), Valenti is attempting to strengthen the currently shaky relations between Hollywood and China.

Speaking at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Valenti said, “I am hopeful that over time, there will be a loosening of entrance regulations for American films.” He pointed to the Chinese film fest as proof that “we are building a solid, anchored relationship between the U.S. and Chinese film industries.”

Ying was likewise optimistic that the six Chinese films, ultimately chosen by the country’s government from a submission pool narrowed down by the MPAA, “would enhance the friendship between the two countries … as America gets a better understanding of Chinese culture.”

In another sign of optimism, Valenti said that he was a firm supporter of China’s becoming part of the World Trade Organization, and “glad that negotiations for this are back under way.”

The Chinese government heavily regulates the few films that are released in China. Cultural affairs Consul Liu Jikang could recall only about five U.S. films recently opening in China, including “Titanic,” “Jurassic Park,” “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” “True Lies” and “The Fugitive.”

But Jikang did predict that next year Disney’s “Tarzan” and “Enemy of the State” would get some Chinese screen time.

Relations between the countries have also soured recently as the piracy of U.S. films and other entertainment-related items into China has escalated.

But Valenti was adamant that “China and the U.S. need each other … they can’t be antagonists, they must be friends.” And although there are no plans at this time, Valenti is “hopeful that in the foreseeable future, we’ll have an American film festival in Beijing or Shanghai.”

Ying said, “We will continue to move toward exchanging between the two countries.”

The Chinese film fest, playing at L.A.’s Zanuck and Garfield theaters Sept. 28-Oct. 2 before moving to New York’s Asia Society Oct. 5-9, includes the world preem of WWII-themed “Lover’s Grief Over the Yellow River” and the U.S. preem of “A Musician’s Life.”

All screenings are free and open to the public. For more information, call (888) 906-3456.