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Jia Zhangke’s Pingyao Festival Returns for Second Edition

The second edition of the Pingyao International Film Festival will kick off next month with a screening of “Half The Sky,” in which five female directors approach the subject of womanhood and femininity by telling the stories of different women.

The film is directed by Daniela Thomas, Elizaveta Stishova, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Liu Yulin, Sara Blecher and produced by Jia Zhangke, the Chinese auteur who established the festival.

The festival, which runs Oct. 11-20 and counts Marco Mueller as its artistic director, is located in the United Nations heritage town of Pingyao in North East China’s Shanxi Province. Purpose-built venues include a main theater in a converted diesel engine factory, and five smaller halls.

The female angle is given additional heft with “Lust Stories,” a four-part anthology film telling stories about women, which joins “Sky” among the four gala screenings. Its three men and sole woman director are Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar. Also getting gala treatment are: “The Wind Guardians,” directed by Liu Kuo, and selected for presentation by John Woo. A restored version of Johnnie To’s 2004 sports drama “Throw Down,” rounds out the galas.

The festival divides the rest of its official selection into: Crouching Tigers (international directorial debuts or second features); Hidden Dragons (exceptional international genre films); Best of Fest (outstanding award-winning films from international film festivals); New Generation China (Chinese-speaking films from up-and-coming filmmakers); Tributes/Retrospectives (rediscovered classics); Special Presentations (films with a special relationship to the PYIFF).

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Two sidebar sections are to be held for films made in Shanxi, and another for student films. A work-in-progress lab screenings section includes partially-completed work that is eligible to receive support for post-production and further development.

The festival offers multiple other prizes including Roberto Rosellini awards for best film and best director (worth $20,000 and $10,000 respectively) in the Crouching Tigers section, and four Fei Mu awards for the best Chinese work across multiple sections. A Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon East-West Contribution Award will also be made to an individual who has contributed to East-West understanding.

An incomplete selection was announced this week. It includes: Venice prize-winner “Manta Ray,” by Phuttiphong Aroonpheng; “Cities of Last Things,” by Ho Wi Ding; “Wildlife,” by Paul Dano; “Baby,” by Liu Jie; Sundance title “Dead Pigs,” by Cathy Yan; “Hotel by the River,” by Hong Sang Soo; and “Happy as Lazzaro,” by Alice Rohrwacher.

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