Houston film festival's China focus draws praise from industry

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The recent 52nd WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival in Houston, in the US state of Texas, paid a great deal of attention to Chinese movies and moviemakers. And it drew praise from movie industry insiders for this shift in focus.

Actress and dancer Zhou Jie (left), who stars in Princess of Yang, poses for a photo with a friend before the film is screened at the 52nd WorldFest-Houston International Festival in Houston on April 7. [PHOTO/CHINA NEWS SERVICE]

Speaking about the change, Megan Botha, who is responsible for international business development in Z Lab USA LLC, a Houston-based global marketing firm, says: "I grew up with American movies, obviously Western movies ... was really, really excited to see what Chinese movies are like."

One of the two opening-night movies of the festival was The Star and the Sea, co-directed by Li Qiankuan and Xiao Guiyun, and first screened in China in 2011. It is a moving drama about the impoverished childhood of one of China's most famous composers, Xian Xinghai. His Yellow River Cantata was the most inspiring piece of music during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) in World War II.

Li and Xiao, both honorary life chairpersons of WorldFest-Houston, say that diversity of arts and cultures is one of the highlights of the festival, and cultural activities are very helpful in improving understanding between China and the United States.

As part of the film festival, the WorldFest Focus on China had screenings of 15 Chinese feature films and several Chinese shorts.

Separately, the mayor of Houston Sylvester Turner mentioned in his message for the festival that 200 filmmakers from China were present at the WorldFest Focus on China, and this is "the largest such gathering in the US".

"I am confident that this momentous occasion will enrich our city culturally and continue to be a remarkable showcase of talent and dedication," Turner adds.

WorldFest-Houston chairman Hunter Todd considers the World-Fest Focus on China as a platform to provide opportunities for emerging Chinese directors and a window to China.

"I love the realism of Chinese films, and the independent Chinese films are especially good, because they reflect the spirit and personalities of China, and I love China," he says.

At the festival, there were 10 major categories of competition, and over 60 new independent feature films and 108 award-winning shorts as well as documentaries and student projects from around the globe were screened.

Zhou Jie, a prominent Chinese actress, dancer and educator, hailed the festival for its diversity and inclusion of various cultures.

"I believe that through the window of demonstrating China's history and culture, the American people will understand more about China as well as Chinese culture. I'm confident that they will be fascinated by Chinese culture," Zhou said at the opening ceremony.

Zhou stars in the film Princess of Yang, which was screened at the festival as one of the five Chinese masterpieces.

The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, as well as other officials, sent messages for the festival's success.

Zhang Ling, the executive chairperson and head of Asia for the festival, says: "I'll try my best to help filmmakers from Asia, in particular from China, to promote their productions here."

WorldFest was founded over 52 years ago as Cinema Arts, an International Film Society, in August 1961, and has since evolved into the third competitive international film festival in North America, following the San Francisco and the New York film festivals.

As one of the oldest independent film and video festivals in the world, WorldFest has discovered a long list of famous film personalities such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Ang Lee.

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