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China honors Venice chief

Mueller recognized for contribution

ROME — Venice Film Festival artistic director Marco Mueller will receive China’s Friendship Award, the highest nod for foreigners who have made outstanding contributions to the country’s economic and social progress.

Mueller, a longtime fan and scholar of Chinese cinema, which he also produced, will be handed the nod from China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in a private ceremony in Rome on Thursday, marking the opening of the Year of Chinese Culture in Italy.

Mueller, who speaks both Cantonese and Mandarin, is considered among the first, and certainly the most active, disseminators of Chinese cinema in the West, via a slew of major retros and sidebars, starting in the early 1980s, several at fests such as Rotterdam and Locarno, which he directed prior to Venice.

Both as Asian cinema expert and as fest assembler he has helped boost the careers of Chinese auteurs Zhang Yimou, Hou Xiaoxian, Cai Mingliang, Jia Zhangke, Liu Jie, Jiang Wen and Ang Lee, among others.

As a producer, he has shepherded Zhang Yuan’s acclaimed dramas “Seventeen Years” and “Little Red Flowers.”

“The vitality of Chinese film no longer needs confirmation,” said Mueller in a statement released on Tuesday by the Venice Biennale.

“China has had, and still has today, many directors who are able to work with tradition in order to renew it.”

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