You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Beijing Film Festival Opens New Chapter With 5th Edition

It has taken a few ungainly attempts, but the Beijing International Film Festival, which opens Thursday evening, is now looking more like the major movie industry event that it aspires to be. Even the former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is expected to come for a look.

The festival (running April 16-23) is not just bigger. It is also more comprehensive and well rounded than in previous years. It has an opening night film and reception — standard fare for most festivals but not present in every previous edition of the BJIFF.

The hiring of former Venice and Locarno festival boss Marco Mueller allows the festival to claim more cinematic credibility than it did in its first four editions. The festival opens with the international premiere of the Taviani brothers’ “Wondrous Boccaccio” and will close next week with upmarket Hong Kong-Chinese action film “Helios.”

“This year’s competition selection is the best possible indication of the growing interest in the Beijing festival on the part of producers and sales agents from around the world,” Mueller told Variety. “To have the world premiere of a Japanese film [Sono Sion’s ‘Love and Peace’] in a Chinese festival is quite an achievement.”

Similarly, the expanding international involvement in the festival and market’s industry events point to an overseas acceptance of the BJIFF as a meaningful platform for dialogue, presentations and, perhaps, trade. Underpinning the maturing of the Beijing festival is the continued growth of the Chinese film industry.

Popular on Variety

Theatrical box office last year reached $4.2 billion and so far this year it shows no sign of relinquishing its 30% annual growth rate. That makes China a market that that overseas firms want to be in, and it makes Chinese firms attractive partners in overseas ventures.

Some 50 Australian executives will travel to the festival in what’s the largest-ever Oz film trade delegation to China, for the by now annual Australia-China Film Industry Forum. “The incentives, facilities and talent of Australia’s screen industry are attracting increased interest in China,” said Australia’s ambassador to China, Frances Adamson.

To date only three films in eight years have made use of the bilateral co-production treaty between the two countries. But industry sources suggest that two more should get under way this year, and that a number of Chinese movies will access Australian financial incentives to use VFX and post-production facilities.

Antipodean neighbor New Zealand is also making its presence felt at Beijing. It will take a booth in the Beijing market and showcase five Kiwi features in the festival. The New Zealand Film Commission has established a fund to support possible co-productions, and NZFC chief Dave Gibson says that one animated feature and a feature-length documentary are close to being set up as co-productions.

Russian umbrella organization Roskino will bring six films to Beijing as well as a group of executives. French export promoter UniFrance Film International, often a pioneer in international film cooperation, will turn on the Gallic charm. At a reception, France will recognize top Chinese director Feng Xiaogang with a chevalier de l’ordre des artes et des lettres award.

The Beijing Film Festival open opportunities for Chinese companies too. Many see the festival as having growing interest and increasing relevance. Online video group Youku Tudou will live-stream the opening and closing ceremonies, while its production subsidiary Heyi Pictures will host three of the Tiantan competition films and use the festival platform to announce new industry deals on April 20.

More Film

  • Australia' s Oscar contender BuoyancyC

    Rod Rathjen on Why Human Trafficking Tale 'Buoyancy' Had to be Made as Fiction

    Australian Rod Rathjen’s first film as director, “Buoyancy” is a powerful dramatization of human trafficking within Thailand’s offshore fishing fleet. Shot largely in Khmer and Thai, and selected as Australia’s foreign-language Oscar contender, it may also be a role model for cultural sensitivity and activism. The film plays this week in competition at the International [...]

  • Bong Joon Ho Talks 'Parasite' on

    'Parasite' Director Bong Joon Ho Makes Late Night Debut Following Three Globe Nominations

    “Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho sat down for his first U.S. late-night appearance on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” Monday night. The director, who received best director and best original screenplay Globen Globe nominations with co-writer Han Jin Won, plus a best foreign language nod Monday morning, did not give much away about the film’s [...]

  • The Cold Blue

    Erik Nelson Wants to Preserve the Past With 'The Cold Blue' World War II Documentary

    Erik Nelson describes his documentary “The Cold Blue” as “the garage band of movies” — he didn’t have the large team or crew other documentary contenders have. “The Cold Blue” is a World War II documentary that looks at raids and B-17 bombing missions that took place during the war. Nelson’s team looked at 34 [...]

  • Ray Manzarek

    Film News Roundup: Concert-Documentary 'The Doors: Break on Thru' Set for February

    In today’s film news roundup, one-night showings of a Ray Manzarek tribute and the season premiere of “Doctor Who” have been set for 2020, and the MPAA hires a copyright expert. ONE-NIGHT SHOWINGS The Doors and Trafalgar Releasing are teaming on the worldwide Feb. 12 release of “The Doors: Break on Thru – A Celebration [...]

  • Richard Jewell

    Warner Bros. Hits Back at Atlanta Paper Over 'Richard Jewell' Legal Threat

    Warner Bros. is standing behind “Richard Jewell,” the Clint Eastwood drama that is the source of controversy over its portrayal of a female journalist trading sex for scoops. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sent a legal threat to the filmmakers on Monday asking them to include a disclaimer noting that the film took dramatic license. In a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content