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Director and Action Star Honored at Shanghai Film Festival

China's renowned director Zhang Yimou and Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan were each presented with an Outstanding Contribution Award at the opening ceremony of the eighth Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) on Saturday evening.

More than 300 movie stars, including Singapore's Fann Wong and Hollywood star Brendan Fraser, graced the gala opening night.

Other film auteurs and stars to grace the red carpet outside Shanghai Grand Theatre include Wu Tianming, the chair of this year's seven-member judging committee for the Jin Jue Awards, Jiang Wenli (Chinese actress), Kang Je-gyu (Korean writer/director), Lisa Lu (American-Chinese actress/producer), Marc Rothemund (German director), Regins Wargnier (French director) and Imanol Uribe (Spanish director).

This year's film festival coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Chinese film industry, and commemorative events include a Chinese New Films Exhibition, a posters exhibition, and a classical films screening.

Zhang Yimou, a native of Shaanxi Province, was admitted to the Beijing Film Academy (BFA) in 1978. Initially working as a cameraman for Zhang Junzhao (One and Eight, 1983) and Chen Kaige (Yellow Earth, 1984), Zhang made his directorial debut in 1987 with the award-winning Red Sorghum. The film nabbed the Golden Bear Award at the 1988 Berlin International Film Festival. Zhang also won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994 with his epic To Live.

After watching a piece celebrating 100 years of Chinese film at the opening ceremony, Zhang, his voice heavy with emotion, said that the industry is what it is today because of China's filmmaking pioneers. They left a legacy that must be preserved and passed down by him and his contemporaries to the younger generation of filmmakers.

"Today I saw so many young directors and I believe China's film industry has a promising future." Zhang commented at the awards ceremony.

The other prizewinner, Jackie Chan, was born in Hong Kong on April 7, 1954. He began his stunt magic in the 1971 Bruce Lee films Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon and his name has been linked with action films for 44 years. Chan has never used a stunt double and for his efforts received a Stuntman Lifetime Achievement Award at the Taurus World Stunt Awards in 2002. He's also made a name for himself in Hollywood. After a few short years wowing audiences there, he earned himself his very own star on the coveted Walk of Fame.

"I started to make film at six and a half, going through the old Wu Xia period, Bruce Lee's era to now." Chan said at the film forum during the festival, adding that kongfu films at Lee's time were visually shocking, but his own movies are mixed with entertainment and humor. Today's martial arts films have become more artistically beautiful thanks to Zhang Yimou, Ang Lee and other directors.

Offering tips for the industry's future, Chan noted: "We need more good action films to let international audiences enjoy and appreciate China's culture. Assuming more people can speak Chinese, they would watch not only the kungfu flicks, but also the literary films. One day in the future when they can understand works like Raise the Red Lantern, we'll know we've succeeded."

Established in 1993, the SIFF was ratified by the State Council of the People's Republic of China, and is a FIAPF-accredited competitive international film festival (FIAPF is the International Federation of Film Producers Associations). 
Main events include the Jin Jue Awards competition, International Film Panorama for non-competition films, International Film & TV Market and an International Film Forum. Among the 17 films competing for the Best Film Award are two Chinese movies: black comedy Gimme Kudos by Huang Jianxin, and romance flick A Time to Love by Huo Jianqi. The winning film will be announced on closing night on June 19.

(China.org.cn by Li Xiao, June 13, 2005)

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