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Lights Go up on Film Festival

The sixth Shanghai International Film Festival wrapped up on Sunday, with 410 films from 47 countries competing for the Golden Goblet Award.

The Chinese film Life Show was the highlight of the final 14 competing movies, as it won three major awards - for Best Film, Best Actress and Best Cinematography.

All the jury members agreed that the film successfully portrays an ordinary Chinese woman in the midst of a changing and complex society.

The jury granted the Special Jury Award to the Japanese film All About Lily Chou-Chou, made by renowned young director Shunji Iwai.

Jury chairman Li Qiankuan said that Iwai depicted the painful story of a teenager in despair with a delicate and elegant touch, which moved the majority of the jury.

The Best Director award went to David Caesar for his superbly crafted storytelling skills in the Australia film Mullet.

The South Korean film A Little Monk obtained the Best Screenplay award with its simple yet compelling story from a child's perspective.

The jury also awarded the Best Actor title to Irish actor Colin Farrell, who starred in the United States film Hart's War. Farrell's powerful and honest performance as a young American soldier who faces a crisis of honor won over the hearts of the jury.

According to the organizing committee, this year's festival attracted much more public attention than the previous five.

The committee's Yu Baiming said: "It is partly because the Shanghai International TV Festival was held alongside the film festival, which aroused more public awareness, and partly because the previous five film festivals had amassed a loyal contingent of film fans to the festival."

Various symposiums were held during this year's festival to provide venues for brainstorming over the development of the film and entertainment industry.

Zhu Yonglei, president of the Shanghai Media & Entertainment Group, said: "These symposiums were really professional and they provided some possible solutions to the problems we are now facing."

At the international symposium, participants debated the topic "Entertainment Economy - the Perspectives of the Film and TV Industry." Insiders regarded this symposium as the most influential and elucidating.

The international symposium attracted distinguished keynote speakers both from China and abroad, including Millard L. Ochs, president of Warner Bros International Theatres, and Rik Dovey, managing director of ESPN Star Sports.

George Wang, director of a Shanghai-based privately owned communications company, said: "They are all tycoons in both the media and entertainment businesses. Sharing experience with them is the ultimate dream for us in the business."

The speakers were unanimous that integrating the different sectors of the film production process is crucial to the industry's success.

Li Ruigang, assistant president of the Shanghai Media & Entertainment Group, pointed out that the group is building itself into a conglomerate that will involve itself not only in the production of films and TV serials but also in the media business and exhibitions. A diverse range of business ventures helps the group increase its profits, he said.

As far as the commercialization of artistic products is concerned, both Chinese movie-makers and their foreign counterparts suggested that the power of a brand was vital.

Ochs said the major part of brand-building resides in creating a successful character. He backed up his opinion by referring to the box-office success of the Harry Potter film, whose hero is now one of the best-known figures in the film world.

Jing Guoping, director of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio, agreed and added that the success of the Chinese cartoon film Lotus Lantern is mainly attributed to the imaginative design of the leading character, Chen Xian.

How Chinese film-makers should face competition from the overseas media was also a popular launch pad for debate among festival participants.

Li Ruigang said he firmly believes that the leading Chinese companies in the business should make dealing with the "four Cs" the top priority in their business strategies. The "four Cs" are convergence, consolidation, competition and confusion.

Convergence means mergers and acquisitions. Consolidation requires business leaders to integrate all their resources and to shape the core value of their companies. Meanwhile, the leaders should encourage competition inside their companies.

As for confusion, Li said that the business leaders should blur the borders of different sectors such as broadcasting, TV, film and even exhibitions to generate a new media complex to fight foreign mega-media groups.

Other symposiums also got warm responses. Topics included: Forging successful Chinese-language films; the strategic alliance of Chinese film-makers; the World Trade Organization and Chinese films; and the future of Asian films.

The organizing committee said it hopes the discussions will help push forward the Chinese film industry so that more and better Chinese films will feature in the coming festivals.

(China Daily June 19, 2002)

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