Size and scale were the recurring themes of the opening ceremony of the fifth Beijing International Film Festival, held Thursday outside the Chinese capital. As such, celebrity guest, action star and former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger played his part perfectly.
Schwarzenegger praised China’s ability to get things done, something he said he had witnessed on multiple, diverse visits to the country over a period of 30 years, since an early trip with “Conan The Barbarian.” His two-fold mission on this trip comprised taking part at an environmental protection ceremony Wednesday, and promotion of the “Terminator” series of movies. “And I can really say, ‘I’ll be back,’ in three months for the promotion of ‘Terminator: Genisys.'”
The festival ceremony was held at the huge new International Convention and Exhibition Center used for an APEC conference last year, at Yangqi Lake, near Huairou, Hubei Province. That was only a stone’s throw from China Film Group’s huge studio complex in Huairou where “The Great Wall,” starring Matt Damon and Willem Defoe, is now lensing under the direction of China’s Zhang Yimou.
The ceremony ran through a familiar repertoire of official speeches, dance routines, clumsy symbolism and introductions to the competition films and jurors. But it was presented on an Olympic scale.
With five giant screens and a suspended ceiling at their disposition, the show’s producers were able to make impressive use of back projections and projection mapping. They delivered several dynamic series of clip reels that ebbed back and forth between stage and screen, and an almost cartoon-like Beijing Opera performance.
The skits, dance numbers and segues mixed up Mao-era aesthetics with folksy Americana and Gangnam-style K-pop styling. They also included the restaging of a succession of movie scenes, from “The War Horse” to “Red Sorghum.” And at one stage some 16 Marilyn Monroe lookalikes felt their skirts billowing.
Schwarzenegger said that he had previously visited Chinese studios and admired the country’s ability to quickly construct impressive structures. “Whether I ever a shoot a movie here in China depends only on the script,” he told Variety. “Get me the right one and I’ll be the first one on the plane.”
Other guests and executives at the opening event included CAA’s Jonah Greenberg, local talent agent Hattie Yu, the British Film Institute’s Amanda Nevill, veteran actress Lisa Lu, head of Malaysia’s FINAS Kamil Othman, the Motion Picture Association’s Mike Ellis and William Feng, U.S. directors Rob Minkoff and Darren Aronofsky, China Film Group head La Peikang, Village Roadshow Asia’s China head Ellen Eliasoph, and “Wolf Totem” director Jean-Jacques Annaud.