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Pingyao Film Festival Unveils New Chinese Works in Progress Ahead of Oct. 10 Kickoff

Pingyao Film Festival
YangYue

The fourth annual Pingyao International Film Festival will run as an in-person event from Oct. 10 to 19 in the central Chinese province of Shanxi.

Chinese director Diao Yinan, who won the 2014 Golden Bear for his gritty thriller “Black Coal, Thin Ice” and premiered his latest neo-noir “Wild Goose Lake” at Cannes last year, will act as “festival mentor,” hosting special screenings of his own works and a masterclass.

In a video message, Diao complimented Pingyao on being “unique and professional,” a place that “gathers people like a bonfire, with everyone chatting around.” He praised the festival for its support of young talent, saying that it has “provided a platform for [young people] to join each other, to discuss openly and explore freely.”

Founded by Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke (“A Touch of Sin”) and Marco Muller, the former director of the Venice Film Festival who serves as Pingyao’s artistic director, the festival unfolds in the UNESCO World Heritage-designated walled ancient city of Pingyao. The setting allows for a smaller, and more personable and arthouse-oriented event than the big city festivals in Beijing and Shanghai. It’s located close to Jia’s hometown of Fenyang, and seeks in part to promote tourism to the region.

Screenings at the festivals are broken down into five sections. The “Crouching Tigers” section features first or second features from international directors, while the “Hidden Dragons” section highlights first or second features in the Chinese language. A gala section spotlights major works or directors, and “Made-in-Shanxi” helps promote work set in the province or created by filmmakers or companies.

There is also a retrospective section, which this year will focus on Yugoslav New Cinema and the Serbian New Wave. It will feature classics and other titles restored specifically for Pingyao by the Film Center Serbia and the Yugoslav Film Archive, with some screening for the first time since 1992. Among the titles are two from Aleksandar Petrovic (“A Couple,” “Tri’) and two from Dusan Makavejev (“Man Is Not a Bird,” “Innocence Unprotected”).

On the industry side, the festival has “Works-in-Progress” and “Pingyao Project Promotion” sections, where this year 17 and 22 projects, respectively, will compete for a number of cash prizes. Filmmakers will also have the opportunity to network with investors, distributors and festival curators.

The WIP selects uncompleted projects that are already officially registered with Chinese authorities, having passed the first stage of censorship approvals, but are still in development and production, with a rough cut of at least 30 minutes.

Projects this year are notably “from many relatively mature filmmakers and teams,” the festival said. They include “The Wind Will Say,” starring Taiwan’s Golden Horse Award-winning Lee Kang-sheng, best known as auteur Tsai Ming-liang’s go-to actor; “Pistol,” starring Zhang Yu (“An Elephant Sitting Still,” “Dying to Survive”); and “The Bargain,” produced by Jia’s longtime collaborator, Japan’s Shozo Ichiyama.

The PPP section seeks to uncover new talent by focusing on projects that have a fully completed script, but no production plans. This year, it received 1,467 applications — triple the requests from last year.

Projects on the shortlist include a road trip comedy from producer Yang Jing (“Crosscurrent,” “Girls Always Happy”), two sports films about ice hockey and MMA, three sci-fi projects, two films featuring Chinese regional dialects, a fantasy film, and a number of crime thrillers and family comedies.