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Celebrating Film
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The 9th Shanghai International Film Festival gets under way this weekend for a bigger and better celebration of the silver screen with more than 200 films showing from every corner of the world and of every genre imaginable.


Those who are both soccer fans and movie buffs may have some difficult decisions to make this weekend with the red-hot FIFA World Cup and the Shanghai International Film Festival both vying for attention.  


This year, the local film festival, now in its ninth run, will see 17 films from home and abroad competing for the top honor, the Golden Goblet Award. The two Chinese films in the contest are The Music Box by late Shanghai artist/director Chen Yifei and Qi Jian's The Forest Ranger.   


Veteran director James Ivory's The White Countess, an epic love story set in 1930s Shanghai and partly shot in the city, will open the festival at the Shanghai Concert Hall on Saturday night.   


Organizers say that they have invited Hollywood stars Edward Norton, Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, France's Catherine Deneuve, South Korea's Jang Dong-gun and Japan's Hiroyuki Sanada to join Chinese film stars for the opening ceremony.   


Remarkably, Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as well as the main cast and crew of The Banquet, the latest production by veteran Chinese director Feng Xiaogang, will also be present.  


This year's jury panel has nine members, up from last year's seven, with renowned French filmmaker Luc Besson heading the panel and director Feng the vice president.   


Other judges include British producer Duncan Kenworthy, Italian filmmaker Gabriele Salvatores, Spanish director Manuel Aragon, Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan and Beijing actress/director Xu Jinglei.  


"This year's jury panel are more famous and they are at a higher level in the art of film," says Tang Lijun, an official with the festival's organizing committee. "Many of their works have won the highest awards on the international scene. Movie buffs will also have the chance to view up to 200 movies in 19 local cinemas during the festival.   


"Diversity has always been the principle of the festival," adds Tang. "The audience will have more choice this year, from Hollywood commercial blockbusters to art-house movies and animations."   


In addition to the showing of the latest award-winning productions, such as this year's Oscar winners - Walk the Line and Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit - the panorama section will also feature a retrospective of the works of directors Besson and Feng, a theme exhibition on Chinese movies, and special shows of British, Italian, Russian, New Zealand and Mexican films.   


These pictures, covering such wide genres as action, comedy romance and suspense thriller, display different periods of the various countries involved and are vivid portrayals of their peoples, from the lives of the rich to those of the poor.


According to the British Council, about 20 of the latest hits, shorts and classic features, including Pride and Prejudice, The Libertine and Match Point, will be shown during the festival. Anthony Minghella, a well-known British director with such hits as Cold Mountain and The English Patient under his belt will come to Shanghai with his representative works like Truly, Madly, Deeply and The Talented Mr Ripley.   


Another important change for this annual event is that the tickets are cheaper - ranging from 20 yuan (US$2.5) to 60 yuan, compared with last year's 50 yuan. "We hope the lower price will bring more audience to theaters," Tang says.  


Wang Mozhi, a movie fan, says the openness and viewer-friendliness are the two most notable characteristics of this year's film festival.  


"A foreign filmmaker will work as the president of the jury panel, but previously this important position was designated to Chinese directors only," Wang says. "In addition, we can go to cinemas in every district."   


To encourage young Asian filmmakers and promote the Asian filmmaking, 10 Asian films will scramble for the Asian New Talent Award, an important part of the festival.   


Officials say that it is the third time they have presented this competition, which provides a creative and energetic panorama of today's Asian films. Many of the subjects originate from the personal life experience of the new talents, covering war, immigration and the collisions with the elder generations.  


Tian Zhuangzhuang (Delamu, Springtime in a Small Town), a representative of China's fifth-generation directors, will head the international jury panel of the Asian New Talent Award.   


"We have to admit that the influence of Shanghai International Film Festival is rapidly increasing," says Dr Liu Haibo from the Shanghai University. "It's becoming more open and international. The vibrant Chinese film industry can find a lot of possibilities in collaborating with foreign filmmakers on this platform."   


However, compared with other acclaimed film fests, such as Cannes Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival, their young Shanghai counterpart still needs to improve, says film experts.   


Dr Liu, together with other critics, officials and experts, was earlier involved in the official selection for the Golden Goblet Award nominees.   


"So far China hasn't adopted a film-rating system," Liu says. "Some experimental and avant-garde pictures with violent or sexual plots cannot be shown during the festival."   


Ying Yuli, a documentary director and film art professor at Tongji University, notes that June doesn't seem to be an ideal time to host film festivals as the university students, who are also a major audience, are usually engaged in examinations.   


"The official cinemas of the festival are still far from the universities," Ying says. "A lot of students would rather buy DVDs to save money on transport."   


Both Liu and Ying hope that the local film festival will have more tolerance to movies with brave themes and styles, and the selection process should be based only on the entry's artistry, a single and exclusive criteria, thereby attracting a wider audience.


Log onto for daily schedule or book tickets at 962-388 and 800-820-1585, or Please refer to C3 for cinema address.


(Shanghai Daily June 15, 2006)

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