The 6th Shanghai International Film Festival

By de Mello, Cecilia Antakly | Framework, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

The 6th Shanghai International Film Festival


de Mello, Cecilia Antakly, Framework


Open arms and crowded rooms

The Shanghai Film Art Centre, a multi-screen cinema complex that served as headquarters for the 6th Shanghai International Film Festival, was buzzing in the warm late afternoons of last June. People would come in big masses, like everywhere else in Shanghai. Some would try to see a film; others would just sit outside and soak up the atmosphere. There were kids playing over the red carpet laid outside the main entrance for the opening ceremony, old ladies engaged in endless conversations, and a constant toing and froing from the box office, where tickets for the festival were eagerly disputed.

What is it that makes the Shanghai Film Festival unique and special? A showcase for over 170 feature films from 47 countries, its 6th edition took place between the 7th and the 16th of June 2002 in 12 different venues all over the city. This year, for the first time, the Film Festival happened in conjunction with the 9th Shanghai Television Festival, a trend that the organising committees plan to maintain in the following years, thus combining the TV and film market in the hope of expanding both industries in China. Opening and closing gala ceremonies-as well as a series of social events in between-celebrated the event and entertained the guests with enormous Chinese banquets. Stars from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, including pop singers and TV pin-ups virtually unknown to the western public, attracted hundreds of fans as they walked down the red carpet on opening day. Shanghai welcomed guests from different countries and backgrounds, and made sure its opening and closing shows alternated Chinese traditional performances with Western numbers. Surely the foreigners were willing to see more of the first. And perhaps it wasn't exactly the cultural dialogue that made the Shanghai Film Festival unique and special, nor any of the features highlighted above.

Out of nearly 700 international film festivals held every year around the world, Shanghai's is amongst the 55 accredited by the FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Associations). It falls under the category of festivals with awards but no fixed themes, alongside the prestigious Venice, Cannes and Berlin film festivals. This is an honour in itself, but the fact that a film cannot compete in two festivals of the same category means that the young Shanghai film festival is faced with heavyweight contestants and inevitably fails to attract a more prestigious selection of films. Nevertheless, there were some good surprises.

This year's 14 competition films included A little monk (KyungJungju, Korea, 2002), the story of a nine-year-old boy struggling with his imposed destiny to become a monk, All about Lily Chou Chou (Shunji Iwai, Japan, 2001), where internet chat rooms, obsession, violence, prostitution and death permeate the lives of middle school kids in rural Japan, the grim and disturbing Fate as a rat (Ivan Pavlov, Bulgaria, 2001), Mullet (David Caesar, Australia, 2001), a tale set in a small fishing town in New South Wales, Station (Piotr Weresniak, Poland, 2001), with the excellent Polish actor Zbigniew Zamachowski, and this year's winner Life show (Huojianqi, China, 2002). …

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