You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Marco Mueller on Beijing Festival’s New Logic

Former Venice, Locarno and Rome festivals chief Marco Mueller was appointed as artistic adviser to the hugely ambitious Beijing International Film Festival earlier this year. The first event under his tutelage opens today.

Variety: This is your first time as adviser to the Beijing festival. How would you describe the lineup you’ve come up with?
Marco Mueller:
It is the best possible indication of the interest of producers and world sales companies for the Beijing International Film Festival. We have 40 titles that are world or international premieres. Having the world premiere of a Japanese film [Sono Sion’s “Love & Peace”] at a Chinese festival is a real achievement.

Variety: How did you deal with the censorship for which China is well known and which has curbed other Chinese festivals? What was the process?
From the start, the political authorities accepted that we could have the same team of selectors as I’ve had before. Therefore the selectors were able to operate very professionally. They weren’t hunting for the kind of moral values that figure in Chinese censorship problems. In a period of 40 days the 10 of us saw 500 titles, and with [Chinese director] Chen Zhihong we put forward 40 to the committee. It was very clear that we were not to send too many. Not more than 35-40, in order to arrive at 20 films at the end. There are four levels of selection committee. We were able to go directly to the executive committee, which then sent them to censorship with the committee’s positive endorsement.

Of course we were given guidelines. We avoided graphic or lengthy sex scenes. But we have the Taviani brothers’ version of [bawdy tale] “The Decameron” as the opening film. Just think what that means. My experience is that the censorship process is now more relaxed and intelligent than in the past.

Variety: The festival has had struggled with something of an identity problem. Who is it for now?
: It is for the students. It is absolutely for the ticket buyers of tomorrow. This is something I tell the authorities every three or four days.

Films have to be presented in the right track. Therefore, we have been liaising with the film societies of the main universities. Therefore, too, any world sales company that cares to attend a Beijing Festival screening is going to get a real sense of how a Chinese audience reacts.

“The Taviani film is a case in point. We knew why we had picked it. We considered it to be a mixture of action, costume drama and romance, which all wok well in China. We sought permission to show it in advance of the festival to some distributors, and it has been bought by New Film Association. Afterwards the distributor told us he was convinced of the student audience for it.

Variety: A booming box office and commercial considerations are everywhere in Chinese cinema today. How is arthouse cinema faring in China?
There is discussion by SARFT of the opening of an arthouse film circuit within a year or two. It would be in a limited number of cities and initially show a limited number of nationalities of films. But the idea is to expand and add other nationalities over time.

Variety: You have had a very busy 40 days. What takes place in the other 10 months of the year?
“It has always been my habit to start analysis and preparations for the next festival as soon as possible after we have finished one. And on April 24-25 we will have two days of closed-door discussions with many things on the agenda. These are likely to include greater festival and market coordination, as right now the market is a 20-minute car or subway ride away from the festival, and the building of a festival center. Once a political decision is taken here things can move very quickly.

Variety: Are the dates of the festival on the agenda? Did proximity to Cannes affect the film selection?
Yes, absolutely the dates are up for discussion. Ideally, we would move further away from Cannes. But in some ways Cannes helped us too. For at least one film, once it became clear that it was offered a minor position in Cannes while we were offering a competition slot, it became easier to persuade them to come to Beijing.

Variety: The Beijing festival is now 5 years old. How far can it develop?
Things will definitely take time. For one thing Chinese producers need to give more thought to the kinds of films that can work in the international marketplace, and therefore how they can use festivals to get there. And we at the festival need to give something that has real meaning to the media market and to the film market across Asia.”

More Film

  • Greek Director Probes Deeper Issues in

    Greek Director Probes Deeper Issues in Berlin Festival Film 'Sargasso Sea'

    After a sudden suicide turns a small eel-farming town upside down, an investigation unearths troubling secrets about the town’s past. Those discoveries will bring together two women trapped in solitary lives, offering each a chance to find salvation. “The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea” is the third feature by Greek director Syllas Tzoumerkas. Starring frequent [...]

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    France's Cesar Awards Leads the Way for the Oscars

    Since 2011, France’s Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma has steadfastly held its annual awards ceremony the Friday before the Academy Awards. And if launching the Césars two days before the Oscars holds a real, practical benefit — allowing those walking both red carpets time to linger over their last flutes of Champagne before [...]

  • Australian Director Gameau Challenges Audiences to

    Australian Director Gameau Challenges Audiences to Improve the Planet

    Bright-eyed Australian director Damon Gameau set out in his previous movie, “That Sugar Film” to challenge everyday thoughtlessness about the dangers of our modern lifestyle — and became profoundly sick while doing so. In his new film “2040,” which plays in Berlin’s Generation Kplus section and which he styles as a “hybrid feature documentary,” Gameau [...]

  • WGA West Logo

    Writers Guild Sends Hollywood Agents Proposed Code of Conduct

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have sent Hollywood talent agencies a proposed “Code of Conduct” with tough new restrictions on how they operate as agents for writer clients. The WGA made the disclosure Thursday night in an email to its 12,000 members, a day after announcing that it will hold a March 25 [...]

  • Best Score Nominee Alexandre Desplat Is

    Best Score Nominee Alexandre Desplat to Skip Oscar Ceremony

    Best score nominee Alexandre Desplat will be unable to attend Sunday’s Oscar ceremonies because of recent throat surgery, a rep for the composer confirms. The French native, already a two-time Oscar winner (for 2014’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” and 2017’s “The Shape of Water”), is nominated this year for his Japanese-flavored score for Wes Anderson’s “Isle [...]

  • Space Jam

    'Space Jam 2' Gets Summer 2021 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has set a July 16, 2021, date for its live-action/animated sports comedy “Space Jam 2,” starring LeBron James. Terence Nance, creator of the HBO show “Random Acts of Flyness,” is directing the sequel. His credits include “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty,” “Swimming in Your Skin Again,” and “Univitellin.” The movie marks James’ first [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content