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Asia Offers Rich Menu to Cannes' Selectors

2012-04-13 13:43:23        Chinese Films

The poster of "Guns N' Rose" [Photo: Mtime.com]

The 65th Cannes Film Festival (16-27 May) is due to announce its official lineup a week from today, on Thu 19 April. The independent Directors' Fortnight (Quinzaine des Realisateurs) sidebar reveals its own selection a few days later.

With Marco MÜLLER no longer at the Venice International Film Festival, and the power of the International Rome Film Festival under his tenure still unproven, there's never been a better time for Directors' Fortnight to step in as Cannes' arbiter of Asian cinema. Müller's maverick approach was somewhat out of place at an A-list event. It was better reserved for a festival — or sidebar — biting at the heels of the establishment.

For a decade Cannes has had a particularly weak programme of Chinese cinema, precisely Müller's greatest strength. Cannes has shifted to focus almost exclusively on independent Chinese cinema, which holds the moral high ground if not always the artistic one. Would the Cannes of 2012 have the courage to present a film like JIANG Wen's Devils on the Doorstep (2000) in competition? Probably not. Just as it had no room for Jiang's Let the Bullets Fly (2010) or LU Chuan's City of Life and Death (2008).

In contrast to the (relatively weak) Chinese blockbusters that opened in September and December last year — that fed the Venice and Berlin selections — Directors' Fortnight is blessed with a feast of upcoming films from Chinese auteurs. Showing a handful would elevate Directors' Fortnight as the new gateway for Chinese language cinema in Europe. A decade ago, these films would have debuted in Udine. Now their producers want and expect a bigger platform, ideally with a market attached.

Upcoming films include NING Hao's Guns and Roses(opening 24 Apr in China), Leon YANG's An Inaccurate Memoir (24 Apr), GUAN Hu's Design of Death (28 Apr), ZHANG Yang's Full Circle (8 May), Wuershan's Painted Skin: The Resurrection (28 Jun), Lu Chuan's The Last Supper(5 Jul) and LI Yu's Double Exposure.

Under the two previous heads of Directors' Fortnight — Olivier PÈRE and Frédéric BOYER — such a bold move would be unimaginable. Although both men took Asia seriously after assuming their positions, and upped their own travel to the region, neither were completely comfortable navigating its cinemas. But the new Fortnight director Edouard WAINTROP (pictured) has already championed a diverse range of Asian cinema at his previous post at the Fribourg International Film Festival in Switzerland.

While Waintrop's programming at Fribourg suggested that he was most at home with the cinemas of Japan and South Korea — notably with the impressive "The Curse of the Korean Kings" retrospective in 2010 — he has also embraced a range of Chinese films. At his final 2011 edition, he dared to open with DING Sheng's Little Big Soldier (2009) starring Jackie CHAN and put FENG Xiaogang's earthquake melodrama Aftershock (2010) in competition.

And within the comfort zones of South Korea and Japan, there are equally rich pickings ready for Cannes, whether for inclusion within the Fortnight, International Critics' Week or the main festival's Official Selection.

Source: Film Business Asia/Stephen Cremin

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