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Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov (C) and six other jurors at a group interview in Beijing on April 17. They are here to preside over Tiantan Awards, a new film award brand established this year for the Beijing International Film Festival. [Photo: China.org.cn]
Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov, the President of the Tiantan Award jury, said at a group interview along with other six jurors in Beijing on April 17 that he felt the Chinese film industry has great potential and a bright future.
Mikhalkov and six other jurors are in Beijing to preside over Tiantan Awards, a new film award brand established this year for the Beijing International Film Festival.
The jury panel is comprised of Mikhalkov acting as president; Cameron Bailey, artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival; Ivor Benjamin, chair of the Directors Guild of Great Britain; Geoff Brown, a well-known Australian film producer; Gu Changwei, a noted Chinese cinematographer and director; Je-gyu Kang, a famous Korean director; and Zhang Yibai, a renowned Chinese director, and will determine the recipients of the 10 awards from 15 competing films that were shortlisted previously.
"I recognize the huge potential for the development of the Chinese film industry as I have collaborated with Chinese filmmakers over the years," Mikhalkov said. "As China's film business has gotten this far, I think this is a great result due to fully learning lessons from traditional culture and past experiences."
He believed this festival will have a bright future, which is why he accepted the invitation to be the panel's president.
"Whether a film festival is successful or not depends on the general quality of all nominated films and directors' artistic levels," he said.
Mikhalkov said offering only 10 awards is very wise. "The fewer the awards, the bigger the value," he said.
As press members compare Beijing with Cannes, Vennis and Berlin film festivals, Geoff Brown said, "The Beijing festival is only three-year-old while Cannes has had 66 years to improve itself and develop a strong reputation. People should not yet compare the Beijing Festival to such events. People need to take time to improve and contribute to the festival to improve its overall quality and image."
Although the Toronto International Film Festival is 38 year old, Cameron Bailey, artistic director of the Canada film festival, said Beijing has its own advantages: it invites many of the world's best filmmakers; and China has a huge population and its audience is growing faster every day. But most importantly, the Chinese audience has a voracious curiosity and wants to see more films from different countries. Bailey has brought many Chinese films to Canadian audiences, including Lu Chuan's "The Last Supper" and Chen Kaige's "Caught in the Web."
Ivor Benjamin said Chinese film is not different from other nations' films. "We are all filmmakers with our own voices and we want to be heard. Those stories we tell are often stories about our own people and our own times. The stories are always universal, and we always understand them no matter where they come from," Ivor said.
Benjamin suggested that if you want to take Chinese films into the West, "you must give them the Western language," he said, because if you want the films to be understood, the biggest challenge is language. The only solutions are: Chinese actors can be trained to speak very good English, or a film can be shot twice as digital media is cheaper and cheaper, once in Chinese, and once again in English.
Ivor Benjamin has brought more than 50 Chinese films to British audiences through his China Image Film Festival in London, the biggest Chinese language film festival in Europe and Britain's only Chinese film trade platform.
Gu Changwei, the famous Chinese cinematographer and director, praised Beijing Film Panorama at this year's film festival. Chinese audiences can thus enjoy over 260 film masterpieces, which were selected from 1,300 movies from 63 countries and regions and are played in 28 cinemas across Beijing. Most notable includes Harry Potter franchise 8-episode marathon screening totaling nearly 20 hours, 2012 restoration of the historical masterpiece "Lawrence of Arabia" by David Lean and the Oscar's best foreign language film winner "Amour."
"The organizers give Chinese audiences an opportunity to enjoy different types of films and get to know more about excellent films from all around the world. This is a good thing," Gu said.
But how will these seven jurors work and judge the contestant films for Tiantan Awards?
Chinese director Zhang Yibai said jurors will debate after viewing the individual movies. "I'm a director; I will use my standards to define good movies," Zhang said. But South Korean director Je-gyu Kang said it's very difficult to decide because everyone has their own preferences.
Gu said no matter how everyone looks at films, what audiences always want is just to see a good movie. He said: "Some films have huge success at the box office; This is also an award from the audience. I mean, art house films can also make money and blockbusters can also win awards."
When asked what he thought about when famous director Feng Xiaogang complained of Chinese censorship and made remarks like "Chinese directors only can become idiots to carry on this far" at China Film Director Guild Awards held on April 12, Gu said, "Audiences love films, we love films. Idiots have idiot blessings like Forest Gump. You must believe tomorrow will be better. If tomorrow is not that good, there will be tomorrow after tomorrow. So we must go on."
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