Int'l film festival in Beijing boosts cultural exchange

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For Shen Shanshan, 38, April is the "most important time of the year" as she is enjoying the annual Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF) despite her busy life.

This photo taken on April 21, 2023 shows the red carpet ceremony of the 13th Beijing International Film Festival in Beijing, capital of China.(Xinhua/Chen Zhonghao)

"I watch one movie every workday and three on my days off," said Shen, who works at the Beijing Institute of Education.

An important segment of the ongoing 13th BJIFF, the Beijing Film Panorama has brought select films of various genres and styles from different countries to audiences. This year, over 180 films are being screened, including classics such as "Casablanca," as well as new hits like "Tar" and "Close." These movies will be showcased in almost 30 cinemas across Beijing from April 20 until the festival's end on April 29.

With China's optimized COVID-19 response, the BJIFF is able to fully resume its offline activities. This has led to a huge rush for tickets, with some films selling out within seconds. This year, Shen purchased 18 tickets.

Film festivals have the power to ignite people's love for the art of cinema. Shen's passion for films began to sprout after the 4th BJIFF in 2014. The different cultures reflected in the films from various countries and regions made her feel as if her "life has been extended."

Since then, Shen has become a cinephile and started attending more local film screenings. The China Film Archive in the Haidian District of Beijing has become her spiritual home. The film heritage preservation organization is widely regarded as a pilgrimage site for film enthusiasts across the country, thanks to its regular screening of classic films from all around the globe.

DDDream, a film company based in Beijing, has been devoted to introducing international films to China for years. Since 2011, the copyrights of about 100 international films have been purchased by the company for screening at the BJIFF.

According to the company's founder Elizabeth Yang, they want to bring good movies from all over the world, not just Hollywood movies, to the audiences. This year, DDDream introduced eight highly acclaimed international films to the BJIFF, which include "Aftersun" and "Youth."

According to Sha Dan, a staffer of the China Film Archive, films are the carrier of Beijing's cultural inclusiveness, and film exhibitions can realize cultural exchanges and mutual learning among different civilizations.

Thailand is the guest country of the 13th BJIFF and seven film companies of this country are participating in the festival in a bid to seek closer cooperation. "Many of our partners are film companies in Beijing. We hope to find more partners through the film festival," said Phasit Wacharatham, managing director of Thai film production company Locman2011 Co., Ltd.

In addition, two films from Thailand, "Six Characters" and "Love Destiny: The Movie," have been able to meet Chinese audiences in cinemas through the BJIFF.

Shen Shanshan said her taste in movies has been diversified by attending film festivals. "Earlier when it came to watching foreign films, it used to be only Hollywood, but now I watch all kinds of movies, such as British, Japanese, Mexican movies, etc."

There were 292 registered cinemas with 2,118 big screens in Beijing as of 2022, according to data from the Beijing Municipal Film Administration. The well-equipped industrial facilities in the Chinese capital offer an opportunity to integrate diverse cultures.

"We hold an average of 10 film exhibitions every year, and the market is becoming increasingly vigorous," said Yang Yang, assistant director of the Beijing Broadway Cinematheque, adding that the presence of government departments, embassies, multinational corporations and film agencies in Beijing has created an open, global atmosphere, making it convenient to organize international film screenings.

The opening ceremony of Thailand Film Week is held during the 13th Beijing International Film Festival in Beijing, capital of China, April 23, 2023. (Xinhua/Chen Zhonghao)

The development plan for Beijing's film industry for the 2021-2025 period pointed out that film development should serve the construction of Beijing into international exchange center and deepen international exchanges and cooperation of films.

"Films can reflect and inspire various aspects of human life, making them a universal language that resonates with people across the world," said Sun Xianghui, director of the China Film Archive, while speaking at a forum during the 13th BJIFF. 

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