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Shanghai Film Festival Retains Role as East-West Fulcrum

Getting under way on Saturday, the Shanghai International Film Festival looks set on keeping its place as the most convenient set-piece meeting place in China for the local and foreign movie industries.

The 10-day event marked the opening of its 21st edition with the screening of Chinese-made drama “Animal World” starring U.S. veteran Michael Douglas. The downtown opening ceremony at the Lyric Theater was preceded by the usual red-carpet pageant.

With celebrity actor-director Jiang Wen leading out the main competition jury, the parade was always going to be starry.

The festival moves into full business gear from Sunday, with forums and panel discussions involving leading Chinese executives Ren Zhonglun from Shanghai Film Group, Enlight’s Wang Changtian, Bona’s Yu Dong and Huayi’s James Wang. The growing filmic influence of China’s Internet majors is marked by the presence of three Alibaba representatives as speakers on Sunday alone.

In the margins of the festival, business deals are to be announced by companies including Tang Media Partnership, Huayi Bros., and Tencent Pictures.

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Jiang, whose “Hidden Man” is in post-production ahead of a highly anticipated late July release, returns to the stage on Monday to give a masterclass.

Just as important as the local representatives, the regular flow of foreign delegations sees Shanghai still working as a meeting place. This year there are major delegations of producers and officials from New Zealand and India. And the Dutch Film Commission is making a visit to explore opportunities, while also touting its locations, 35% production rebate, and the bilateral co-production treaty signed in 2016, but as-yet unused.

The festival’s formal market will open its doors mid-week. It is preceded by the SIFF Project market, which anyway holds the greater attraction for foreign visitors. This year, some 30 aspiring feature projects will pitch themselves to potential financiers, co-producers and distributors.

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