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Iran’s ‘Castle of Dreams’ Sweeps Shanghai Golden Goblet Award Ceremony

Shanghai international Film Festival closing ceremony
Patrick Frater

China’s top film festival showered its highest three honors on the Iranian film “Castle of Dreams,” hours after U.S. President Donald Trump said his administration would on Monday impose “major additional sanctions” on Tehran.

“Castle of Dreams,” a drama about family, separation and keeping one’s promises collected a trio of prizes on Sunday night at the Shanghai International Film Festival. It won the Golden Goblet prize for best film, the best director prize for Reza Mirkarimi, and a shared best actor award for Hamed Saberi Behdad.

The almost unprecedented awards haul comes at a time when analysts say that Beijing and Tehran are likely to develop even closer cooperation as their respective relationships with the U.S. deteriorate. China is Iran’s largest trading partner, and Tehran’s willingness to stand up to U.S. pressure is partially due to ability to fall back on Beijing’s support.

The Shanghai prizes were decided by a jury headed by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, which also gave a double dose of awards to “Inhale-Exhale,” a drama about trust and rehabilitation directed by Dito Tsintsadze. The film, a Georgia-Russia-Sweden co-production, earned the festival’s grand jury prize and the best actress award for Salome Demuria.

Earlier, Tom Hiddleston and Milla Jovovich (upcoming in “The Rookies,” hitting mainland theaters July 12, and the Tencent-backed “Monster Hunter”) trod the red carpet Sunday night, helping to bring to a close the 22nd edition of the festival, which was in many ways a nervous affair largely dominated by domestic Chinese issues.

The first few days of the festival and its accompanying film market saw the abrupt cancellation of the scheduled opener, “The Eight Hundred,” and then a parade of private-sector Chinese studios unveil movie slates that emphasized patriotism, 20th century wars, and other “mainstream values” closely resembling the output of the now largely defunct state-owned studios. The elephant in the room, at almost every occasion, was the Communist Party’s increasing assertion of power and its willingness to get tough with the U.S. as the trade war escalates. 

The festival’s closing ceremony counted even fewer stars than at the opening ceremony nine days earlier. Wu Jing, director and star of the record-breaking “Wolf Warrior” franchise, was by far the biggest Chinese celebrity on a balmy evening.

One red carpet highlight was a group of Ugly Dolls gingerly led through a tunnel of photographers by gowned female attendants, as the announcer excused their shuffling klutziness. “The Ugly Dolls have no sense of direction,” she chirped. “The Ugly Dolls” film, which counts finance from Alibaba Pictures, hits Chinese theaters Aug. 9.

Red carpet fashion tended towards the sparkly, often involving piles of creased silk, but with a very conservative use of color, and hemlines frequently at full length.

22nd Shanghai International Film Festival – Award Winners

Best Feature Film
“Castle of Dreams” (Iran)

Jury Grand Prix
“Inhale-Exhale” (Georgia/Russia/Sweden)

Best Director
Reza Mirkarimi for “Castle of Dreams”

Best Actor (joint winners)
Chang Feng for “The Return” (China) and Hamed Saberi Behdad for “Castle of Dreams” (Iran)

Best Actress
Salome Demuria for “Inhale-Exhale” (Georgia/Russia/Sweden)

Best Screenplay
Aleksander Lungin and Pavel Lungin for “Brotherhood” (Russia)

Best Cinematography
Jake Pollock for “Spring Tide” (China)

Outstanding Artistic Achievement
“Trees Under the Sun” (India)

Best Animation Film
“Ride Your Wave” (Japan)

Best Documentary Film
“Bridge of Time” (Latvia/ Lithuania/ Estonia)

Best Live Action Short Film
“Nowhere To Put” (China)

Best Animated Short Film
“La Noria” (Spain)