×

Global Film Festival Directors Talk Chinese Cinema in Pingyao

One of the Pingyao International Film Festival’s strengths has been its ability to draw on founders Marco Muller and arthouse auteur Jia Zhangke’s powerful network of global festival directors, who this year made the trek to China’s coal country, in Shanxi province, to engage with new Chinese talent. They gathered for a panel Tuesday afternoon to discuss their respective organizations’ and regions’ engagement with Chinese cinema.

Carlo Chatrian, the new artistic director of the Berlin Film Festival, said a real eagerness among Berlinale audiences for international content was a driving force behind the popularity of Chinese titles. “Chinese films especially are very much well-rooted in a different reality, so [viewers] have a very strong feeling of experiencing a different reality,” he said.

Kirill Razlogov, program director of the Moscow International Film Festival, said Chinese films are rarely screened in Russian cinemas, since — unlike Korean films — they aren’t really seen as commercially viable. Typically, the public only gets to encounter them via official, scheduled cultural-exchange film weeks that occur four or five times a year, showing 30 or 40 films. Audiences at such events, however, are very small, even for bigger films.

“We have difficulties with new films because they go to these film weeks that nobody sees and we can’t take them to the Moscow Film Festival,” he said. “My problem with Chinese cinema is there are very few places to see really new Chinese films. Pingyao is one of these places. It’s the one place where I can see unfinished films and select them for Moscow.”

Popular on Variety

Shozo Ichiyama, director of Tokyo Filmex, said it has historically been less of a struggle for Japanese audiences to encounter Chinese titles, since even back in the 1980s, there were already a number of regular distributors bringing over works such as those by China’s fifth generation directors. “But the audiences are typically very old people who like Chinese culture or landscapes. Such films can find success in Japan, but films about young people in the city don’t always find distributors,” Ichiyama said.

Sabrina Baraccetti, artistic director of the Udine Far East Film Festival, said her festival had decided to start adding more mainstream Chinese films to its lineup to help audiences better understand the current face of Chinese cinema seen by the general public. “In some way, telling the story of the market in China is also showing the more commercial films and understanding more what the audience is here,” she said.

When a Chinese attendee asked the panel whether the big three festivals of Cannes, Berlin and Venice were trending more commercial, having given accolades to Hollywood fare like “The Shape of Water” and “Joker” in recent years, Berlin’s Chatrian pointed out, to loud laughter from the crowd: “You are referring only to one film festival: Venice.”

“I don’t judge Venice,” he said. “It’s a festival that takes place at specific moment of the year, and is giving a lot of room to American cinema” as the Oscar race begins to heat up.

Yet whether at Pingyao or Busan or the Lumiere festival in Lyon, even small festival screenings have been packed with moviegoers lately, said Christian Jeune, head of the Cannes Film Festival’s film office. “The festival system is fragile because of the economic system at the moment, [but] its strength is still to gather people [together]. I still believe in that,” he said. “I’m pessimistic about the world, but I’m not so pessimistic about the life of festivals. I think it still has a future.”

More Film

  • Director of the Sundance Film Festival

    Outgoing Sundance Festival Director John Cooper Reflects on 30 Years of Highs and Lows

    John Cooper, the outgoing director of the Sundance Film Festival, has been on Robert Redford’s payroll for 30 years. Many in the small world of Hollywood, and the even smaller ecosystem of global film festivals, braced at the announcement last June that Cooper would step down, taking with him decades of institutional memory. Cooper spoke [...]

  • Sam Rockwell Awards Season Fashion

    Stylist Michael Fisher Discusses Sam Rockwell's Red Carpet Looks

    Stylist Michael Fisher wanted Sam Rockwell’s looks to reflect his dynamic acting: “Sam and I gravitate towards color and pattern.” Sept. 8 “It’s a celebration with Sam every time we have a fitting,” says stylist Michael Fisher of longtime client Rockwell. “He’s such a vibrant, amazing actor and personality, and he really enjoys these moments, [...]

  • Conductor and Composer Eímear Noone pictured

    Oscars to Feature Female Orchestra Conductor for the First Time

    A woman will be conducting at the Oscars for the first time on Sunday, Feb. 9, the Academy announced today. Irish-born composer-conductor Eímear Noone will conduct excerpts from the five nominated scores. She is the first female to lead the orchestra in the history of the televised awards, the Academy said. Details beyond that are [...]

  • Tina Fey attends the "Mean Girls"

    Tina Fey Announces Movie Adaptation of Broadway's 'Mean Girls' Musical

    It’s good to be mean…the “Mean Girls” musical, that is. Producers of the hit Broadway show announced today that the Tony-nominated production is being adapted for the big screen for Paramount Pictures. The musical is based on the 2004 movie of the same name. “I’m very excited to bring ‘Mean Girls’ back to the big screen,’ Tina Fey, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content