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Unusual Atmospherics Abound at Beijing Festival Opening

The opening ceremony of the seventh edition of the Beijing International Film Festival took place Sunday night amid a tight security cordon at Huairou, and the wind blowing white lint from the poplar trees that surround the city.

As well as a spectacular permanent theater, the far-flung Beijing suburb is home to China Film Group’s studio complex, and the opening events briefly crimped the filming schedule of Zhang Yimou’s upcoming “Shadow.”

Films will play across the Chinese capital for the next week (April 16-23). They will compete for eyeballs with “The Fate of the Furious,” which broke records this weekend in commercial theaters. Festival organizers denied that the absence of any Korean films was a political decision linked to the current diplomatic and economic standoff between China and South Korea sparked by Seoul’s decision to deploy a controversial missile-defense system.

The festival’s opening ceremony in Huairou mixed up daring acrobatics with speeches and introductions but no film screening. The opening title of the BJIFF’s film panorama, Derek Hui’s “This Is Not What I Expected,” played elsewhere.

It was, however, an occasion for promoting upcoming Chinese films, including “Monkey King 3,” with supermodel-turned-actress Lin Chiling and acting-singing superstar Aaron Kwok in attendance.

Jury members including Jean Reno, Rob Minkoff, Mabel Cheung, Emir Kusturica and Bille August trod the red carpet. So. too, did Indian superstar Aamir Khan, who is set to take part Monday in a festival-arranged seminar on international co-production.

Instead of airborne lint, the following morning Beijing was hit by further unusual atmospherics: a rare combination of smog and a sprinkling of sand blown in from the Gobi Desert.

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