Chris Tucker, Adrien Brody and Paul Haggis were on hand Saturday to give a huge high-tech finale to the fifth edition of the Jackie Chan Action Film Week. So too were Crystal Liu Yifei, star of Disney’s upcoming “Mulan,” and a bevy of top Chinese talent.
Moving the event from the fringes of the Shanghai festival in June, to a new date and spectacular outdoor venues provided by provincial town of Datong, some 200 miles East of Beijing in Shanxi Province, may have revitalized the Action Film Week. The event ran for three years in Shanghai, before relocating last year to Datong. Upbeat organizers now talk of franchising the event to other countries.
After opening on July 21 and a week of fan interaction, the festival put on a closing ceremony that was a razzamatazz of stunts, choreography and pyrotechnics. The scale suggested ambitions of matching an Olympic Games or World Cup ceremony.
Held in a full-sized sports arena, with perhaps 20,000 spectators, the show opened with a troop of astronauts arriving from the skies, and Chan himself making an aerial entry in a fire-spitting space car. Another performer topped even that, entering and leaving in a single seater passenger drone.
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There were musical interludes from Taiwan’s Emil Chan Wakin, mainland Chinese songstress Jane Zhang. Superstar, Wang Lee Hom interrupted a nationwide tour to perform a hip hop number. And the whole thing was wrapped up for telecast by state television giant CCTV.
That is all a far cry from the two or three downbeat years that followed the mini festival’s well-intended, but somewhat directionless, start in 2015.
Datong not only financed the event, and loaned its sports complex, but also provided its historically significant caves as an appropriately larger than life backdrop. In its Yungang grottoes, giant Buddha heads carved into the limestone and spectacularly lit up in the early evening overlooked a series of seminars with topics including: the nature of action films; cross-border action film co-operation; and the influence of changing technology on stunt workers.
For these, Chan pulled together top-flight directors Tsui Hark, Wu Jing (“Wolf Warriors”), Martin Campbell (Jackie Chan-starring “The Foreigner”), and Sergei Bodrov (“Mongol”) and Praychy Pinkaew (“Ong-Bak”). Studio heads and officials included China Film Group’s La Peikang, Shanghai Film Group’s Ren Zhonglun, Huayi’s James Wang and Bona Film’s Yu Dong. Top stuntmen included Buddy Joe Hooker, Mark Sieger, He Jun and Hong Kong’s Chin Ka-lok.
Earlier in the week, some 150 films unspooled in Datong multiplexes, with a selection playing in competition section. Honors were shared, with India’s “Junglee,” China’s “The Big Shot,” and Hong Kong’s “Project Gutenberg” each claiming two prizes. Veteran action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” “The Matrix”) received a lifetime achievement award.
The recipients could scarcely have had a bigger stage to collect their statuettes. Also present at the prize-giving closing event were Japanese actor Yasuaki Kurata, directors Stanley Tong, Tsui Siuming, Frant Guo (“The Wandering Earth”), Chinese actor Chen Daoming, Hong Kong’s Kara Wai, and visiting foreign actresses Jeeja Yanin, Aleksandra Revenko and Loan Chabanon (“The Transporter Refuelled”).
Prizes Awarded at the 2019 Jackie Chan Action Film Week
Best action film: “The Big Shot” (China)
Director: He Quan for “Shadows and Echoes” (China)
Special jury prize: for best action family film “Junglee” (India)
Special jury prize: for best ensemble cast “T34” (Russia)
Editing: “T-34” (Russia)
Stunt design: “Junglee” (India)
Cinematography: Jason Kwan for “Project Gutenberg” (Hong Kong)
Art design: Eric Lam for “Project Gutenberg” (Hong Kong)
Script: Wu Zhe for “Shadows and Echoes” (China)
Actress: Fatima Sana Shaikh in “Thugs of Hindostan” (India)
Actor: Wang Qianyuan in “The Big Shot” (China)
Lifetime achievement: Yuen Woo ping (Hong Kong).