Film fever grips Shanghai starting Saturday, with The White Countess opening the 9th Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF).
The film directed by US director James Ivory tells the love story of a blind American diplomat who develops a curious relationship with a young Russian refugee in 1930s Shanghai. The screening follows the opening ceremony at Shanghai Concert Hall. For the next eight days, more than 300 films from some 40 countries and regions will be shown at 19 Shanghai cinemas.
Stars expected at the opening include Andie MacDowell, Edward Norton, Catherine Deneuve, Sigourney Weaver, The Banquet cast members and Chinese directors and actresses Zhang Guoli, Xu Jinglei, Chen Hao and Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada.
The festival closes June 25 with Pedro Almodovar's Volver.
French director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Professional) heads the festival jury, the first time a foreign director has been given the honor.
One of the highlights of the festival, 17 films from 13 countries were selected to compete for the Jin Jue Award.
Other events include the Asian New Talent Award, the Jin Jue International Film Forum, and, getting down to business, a forum on the International Film and TV Market.
According to a SIFF organizer, this is the first year that the festival has accepted online submissions, contributing to the record number of 746 films received. This was an increase of 48.3 percent from last year.
Four of the 17 films competing for the Jin Jue Award will hold their world premieres at the festival. The last-minute-arrival Four Minutes, by German director and screenwriter Chris Kraus, only reached Shanghai on Wednesday. This is Krau’s second feature film. His feature debut, Shattered Glass, won 10 national and international awards.
The Canadian film Lucid, the Argentinean film Cities and Love, and the Italian film The Land will also premiere in Shanghai, something new for the festival.
Two other global premieres and two Asian premieres for films not in the Jin Jue competition will also take place during the festival.
Young and talented directors
Canadian director Sean Garrity and former journalist Chris Kraus are two of the leading young directors at the festival.
Director and screenwriter Garrity's Without Her tells the story of a young violinist discovering the truth behind her mother's disappearance two years earlier. In Four Minutes, an 80-year-old piano teacher transforms her pupil into the musical wunderkind she once was after discovering the secret that she once killed someone. The German writer-director has numerous screenplays to his credit, including gay activist male filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim's gay biopic The Einstein of Sex.
Two Chinese films, The Music Box, by the late artist and director Chen Yifei and The Forest Ranger by young director Qi Jian will compete for the Jin Jue Award.
The Music Box tells a love story of a simple barber living in turbulent times. Forest Ranger is a realistic film about contemporary rural life.
Four other Chinese films, Drinking Tea, Judgment in Tokyo, Glorious Anger and Silent Mani will compete for the Asian New Talent Prize.
(Shenzhen Daily June 16, 2006)