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BFI Leads U.K. Delegation to Beijing Festival

Britain joins global China rush, but film trade trip comes at sensitive political moment.

HONG KONG – The U.K. will this week lead its first major film trade delegation to China to take part in the Beijing Film Festival, which kicks off Wednesday.

The trade delegation is organized by the British Film Institute (BFI) BFI in partnership with the British Council, China Britain Business Council (CBBC), the British Embassy, the British Council and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).

Some 12 leading British talent agents, producers, distributors, film sales companies, exhibitors, and representatives from the BFI, the British Film Commission and BBC Worldwide will meet with representatives from the private and public sectors of China’s film industry.

The BFI has identified China as a priority territory for the UK film industry. It is seen as offering opportunities across co-production, export and cultural exchange to drive growth, creatively, culturally and commercially.

Last December, BFI Chief Executive Officer Amanda Nevill joined British Prime Minister David Cameron’s trade delegation to China during which a landmark co-production treaty was agreed in principle. The treaty is expected soon to be signed and ratified. 

The more educationally-oriented British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) is making similar outreach moves in Asia and is establishing a foothold in Hong Kong, where it has held a number of recent events.

Political relations between the two countries can be tricky. This week China cancelled a bilateral human rights dialog, which PM Cameron had highlighted as one of the “important achievements” of the December trip. “The UK should stop using human rights issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” China’s foreign ministry said on Monday, a reference to UK support for NGOs and the U.K.’s participation in a UN Human Rights Council meeting that examined China’s human rights record. In 2012 China enforced a diplomatic freeze after Cameron met with the Dalai Lama. In 2010 China also halted dialog with the U.K. after London criticized Beijing over the execution of a British citizen who was convicted of drug smuggling, but was believed to have mental health problems.

Other countries are beating a path to the door of the Chinese industry. The BJIFF will have a strong section of French films and formally celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between France and China. Screen Australia last week took part in Australia’s largest ever trade delegation to China.

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