A Review of the 21st Shanghai International Film Festival
The 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF REFORM AND OPENING-UP screenings featured 12 selected domestically produced films that have been filmed over the years to reflect the social trends and changes of the times in different eras. These works show the artistic practice of filmmakers who unremittingly record the changes of the times, devote themselves to artistic creation, embrace the aspirations of the people, and actively reflect real life, reminding people of these extraordinary and eventful years. The poster exhibition and film screenings held in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the reform and opening-up, not only showed the artistic accumulation and achievements of China’s films over the last forty years, but also made filmmakers and audiences come to “know the past, grasp the present and face the future”, so as to stick to their original aspirations, strengthen cultural confidence, and jointly create a better future.
Upgraded Belt and Road program with positive responses from participating countries
In its active answer to the “Belt and Road” Initiative the Shanghai International Film Festival has carried out film and culture exchange with countries along the “Belt and Road” for many years. Building on that, it has taken the initiative as liaison to weave a network of cooperation for filmmakers of the participating countries to exchange and learn from each other. Responses from the counterparts of the countries have been positive and great results have been achieved. This year, the festival received a total of 1369 entries from 49 countries along the “Belt and Road” for screening and competition. A total of 154 films were selected for the Golden Goblet Awards competition and screening; and 26 latest outstanding pieces from 26 film festivals of the countries were presented at the inaugural Belt and Road Film Week held this year. On the opening day of this year’s festival, 31 film festival organizations from 29 countries jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding to form the Belt and Road Film Festival Alliance, which prompted the Shanghai International Film Festival in its efforts to promote the “Shanghai Culture” brand to play a role in making Shanghai an international hub for cultural exchange.
Signing ceremony of the Belt and Road Film Festival Alliance
During the Belt and Road Film Week, representatives of film festival organizations, cast and crew members, buyers and sellers of film companies, media reporters, etc. from the countries actively engaged themselves in exchange with their Chinese peers in theaters, film markets, forums, press conferences, promoting their countries’ film industries. A strong cultural interaction atmosphere was created while ideas and plans for collaboration were gradually formed in the exchange. The filmgoers at the festival learned about the thoughts, emotions and attitudes reflected by the characters and things in these films with unique cultural features. The connection and integration of cultures is happening imperceptibly in such a process. On June 20, at the Belt and Road Film Summit and Film Night held in Pudong International Resort, representatives of the countries jointly issued the Belt and Road Film Festival Alliance Manifesto, and actors from different countries appeared on the stage to talk about their thoughts on the new cooperation in a new era. Chinese filmmakers expressed their confidence in continuing the tradition of making films “go global”, bringing the Belt and Road event of this year's film festival to a climax.
The Belt and Road Film Night
More tickets sold than any previous year, expanded connotations for “Shopping in Shanghai”
After years of hard work, the Shanghai International Film Festival has set the goal of holding an “international, professional, and available” event with enriched brand connotations and clear brand identity. In Shanghai’s implementation of the spirit of the 19th National Congress of the CPC to create a global film and television production center and develop the “Shanghai Culture” brand, the 21st Shanghai International Film Festival has made a positive contribution with its own efforts and interaction in all aspects to establish itself as a famous Chinese culture brand and promote the four brands: “Shanghai Service”, “Made in Shanghai”, “Shopping in Shanghai” and “Shanghai Culture”.
With the World Cup taking place in the same period, viewers were nonetheless enthusiastic about the screenings. 468,178 tickets were sold to the audience, an increase of nearly 40,000 compared with last year, which is enough to show the charm of films. In the days when tickets were being sold, staff of the festival paid close attention to ticketing dynamics and asked the film companies to arrange for more screenings to meet the audience's expectations. The increase in the number of tickets sold, on the one hand, is a result of the fact that the festival has over the years developed a large number of moviegoers that make a solid customer base; and on the other hand, it reflects the strong desire to get to know the world cinema and for a better spiritual life.
According to the data provided by the Taobao Movie ticketing platform, the number of tickets purchased from outside of Shanghai was 51,562, accounting for about 11% of the tickets sold, which proves the Shanghai International Film Festival’s influence and availability to audiences. It was estimated that the number of tickets purchased in Beijing on the day the tickets were made available alone would mean at least 20 large passenger planes loaded with viewers heading for Shanghai to watch the movies. Among the number of purchases from outside Shanghai, 27,248 were made in Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui. In the process of promoting the integration and development of the Yangtze River Delta region, “Shopping in Shanghai” for residents in the region has apparently expanded its connotations, with moviegoers going to Shanghai to watch films during the festival and this will also promote the Yangtze River Delta's integrated development strategy as a new cultural phenomenon and driver. Notably, during the festival, the film Spring Marathon co-produced by Shanghai and Zhejiang was launched. This also shows that the film institutions in the Yangtze River Delta region have entered the stage of industrial cooperation implementation for integrated development.
Constructing an incubation system and promoting "Made in Shanghai"
The Shanghai International Film Festival has long adhered to the orientation of “Focusing on Asia, Promoting Chinese Films, and Supporting New Talents”, promoting the maturity of new filmmakers and their work, building a step-by-step incubation system, and producing the fruits of “Made in Shanghai” in its practice. At the Asian New Talent Award Ceremony held on the evening of June 22, the famous director and screenwriter NING Hao recalled fondly his film Mongolian Ping Pong winning the Asian New Talent Award for Most Popular Film more than 10 years ago, after which he has been recognized by the society and the industry and gone on to be more successful. He is therefore grateful to the SIFF has for being a “patronage”, and in turn spares no effort in the incubation of and support for young filmmakers. In fact, a large number of new productions by young filmmakers, after being honed in all the steps of the Shanghai International Film Festival, have been branded with “Made in Shanghai” and are seeing or have seen their influence in China, Asia and even beyond. Shanghai has always served the whole nation with the products and talents it developed and made and then transported across the country in the past helping establish a good reputation for “Made in Shanghai”. Nowadays, Shanghai in advancing the development of China’s film industry is again producing, developing and transferring film productions and filmmakers. In the words of some filmmakers: "Shanghai is building the future of film."
the Asian New Talent Award Ceremony
Shanghai International Film Festival enables you to learn about the dynamics and industry information of China’s and the world’s cinema. This platform is also a window into Shanghai film industry’s latest plans and policies. Songjiang District‘s announcement to build the Hi-Tech Film and TV Production Base during the festival immediately attracted widespread attention from media at home and abroad. This action plan, which aims to implement the “50 Measures to Boost Shanghai’s Cultural and Creative Industry” and develop the “Four Shanghai Brands”, will bring together a large number of novel film and television production organizations to vigorously promote the upgrade of the film and TV industry “Made in Shanghai”. The traditional Chinese opera movies "Made in Shanghai" aiming to inherit excellent traditional Chinese culture and arts, are an iconic feature of this year's festival. The world premiere of the 3D Dolby Atmos peking opera movie Cao Cao and Yang Xiu, and screening of the first 3D Kunqu opera movie Jing Yang Zhong, the first 3D Yue opera movie Romance of the West Chamber, the restored version of the Yue opera movie A Dream of Red Mansions etc. in the Traditional Chinese Opera Movie screening unit, all clearly bear the brand of "Made in Shanghai". Obviously, the literary and artistic works "Made in Shanghai" will exert greater influence with the help of films.
World premiere of 3D Dolby Atmos peking opera movie Cao Cao and Yang Xiu
Service upgraded made available to the public
The 2018 edition of "Filming in Shanghai – A Guide for Film and TV Production in Shanghai" was released during the festival and caused quite a sensation among the Chinese and foreign guests. The guide, which has been compiled for four consecutive years, provides a detailed introduction to the policies and environment of Shanghai’s film industry, as well as film and television production service workstations spanning the 16 districts in Shanghai and nearly 200 filming locations, offering great services for a large number of film and television works produced in Shanghai and to showcase Shanghai. The content of the guide reflects the connotations of “Shanghai Service”, and the original intention of developing the guide also shows Shanghai’s enthusiasm to serve China’s and the world’s movie industries.
The film festival itself is a large platform for serving the industry, the professionals and the audience. The annual Shanghai International Film Festival is both a grand event for the industry and a festival for fans of film. Nearly 10,000 Chinese and foreign professionals who participated in the festival came to the city and were offered services in terms of communication, cooperation, screening and interaction. And hundreds of thousands of viewers have also enjoyed meticulous services from ticket purchase, ticket collection to seeing films. In order to relieve viewers of waiting in lines at night, and encourage elderly viewers to purchase tickets online, the festival printed 220,000 copies of the "Tips for Buying Tickets" and sent them to 219 community cultural activity centers in the city; 100,000 copies of the "Guide for Moviegoers" were issued free of charge in theaters and public places just a few days before tickets were available, which helped viewers make plans. More importantly, the 492 movies screened were selected from the submissions by programmers who worked day and night comparing and evaluating, and before they could finally meet audiences in the cinemas, the curators had to spend a lot of time negotiating and scheduling, the technicians had to check the encryption keys, customs procedures had to be handled, subtitles translated, timeline checked, etc. In order to improve the quality of the screenings, the festival introduced the automatic subtitle synchronization technology. This year, 120 films screened adopted this technology, greatly improving the viewing experience. Since some of the classics of world cinema were screened using traditional film, the festival commissioned the Shanghai Film Technology Plant with quality assurance, the technicians worked overtime at many nights, and the cinemas resorted to master projectionists of the past to be reassured, so that the old films could reproduce the classic highlights.
In order to improve the service for the general public and make films more available to people, during the festival, the number of fan meetings held in the cinemas reached 130 for the first time, where the audience interacted with film critics and cast and crew members at home and abroad and came to know the bittersweet process of making a film, and better appreciate the stories. The festival also held charity screenings for the general public in the community facilities in downtown area and Songjiang University Town. In Songjiang University Town alone, 15 movies from 8 countries were screened in a four-day charity screening event. The community screenings guided by film critics were held at 24 cultural activity centers for residents in more than 10 districts of the city, allowing residents to participate in the film festival at their doorstep.
Fan meeting of the Shanghainese The Lis during the “Hi-Tech Film and TV Production Base
– Songjiang University Town International Film Exhibition”
SIFFORUM stimulates ideas, Film Market pushes forward cooperation
In the context of the new era, how should China’s films develop in the future? This question was often mentioned by guests of the 11 forums held during the Shanghai International Film Festival. The SIFFORUM has brought together senior professionals from the film industry at home and abroad to start discussions and dialogues. Among them, “Industrialization of Chinese Cinema” focused on upgrade of the industry, and explored the right road to industrialization and specialization of the Chinese cinema through benchmarking with the world's top film industry; “The Reform and Opening up of Chinese Films” reviewed the development of China’s films during the 40 years of reform and opening up and released the "2018 Research Report on Chinese Film Industry", providing global filmmakers a look into the diversification and segmentation of China’s film market; "Emerging Filmmakers Panel: The Good, the Fledgling, and the Audacious" is attended a number of emerging young filmmakers, looking at the future of Chinese films and Chinese filmmakers from different perspectives; “New Approaches for Greater Diversity of Chinese Cinema” explored look at the current challenges that film professionals face to reach the right audience for their films; Opera Film Panel invited a group of famous actors, directors and other artists to make suggestions for the creative transformation and innovative development of opera films.
China’s film industry is moving from extensive development to being more refined, specialized and international. How to develop it along this direction may be a question that everyone can find their own answers to. If the platform built by SIFFORUM is a great opportunity for Chinese and foreign filmmakers to exchange and inspire ideas with a keen sense of smell and forward-looking thinking, then the first SIFF Co-Production Market under Film Market in Shanghai Exhibition Center served as a pragmatic connecting platform for Chinese and foreign filmmakers seeking co-production opportunities. This year, 293 film organizations from different countries participated in the exhibition in Film Market, and activities such as the promotion of the Belt and Road themed pavilions, exchange on international co-productions, and the shooting of books were held. SIFF PROJECT held a series of activities such as a film project seminar, film project road shows, and a producers' conference. It facilitated the negotiation of a total of more than 700 projects from which a large number of new talents and new works will emerge. The thriving Film Market also reflects the responsibility of the Shanghai International Film Festival to help Chinese filmmakers go for the world market and the future.
At a roundtable talk of the SIFF Co-Production Market
"Shanghai Culture" elements integrated in various activities
Shanghai has a profound film culture. At the end of December 1895, the Lumière brothers screened their short films, including The Arrival of a Train, at a café in downtown Paris, marking the birth of motion picture. Half a year later, The Arrival of a Train and other films traveled across the ocean to Shanghai. In Xuyuan, Hongkou District, people saw the "Western Opera" for the first time and hence the story of Shanghai and film began. 122 years after that, Shanghai announced an action plan to develop the “Shanghai Culture” brand. With a history of over a hundred years, Shanghai’s film industry is undoubtedly an important part of this plan; further development of the Shanghai International Film Festival is of course also listed as one of pillars of the plan. People discerning enough would find that this year's SIFF carefully refined and integrated the three elements of the "Shanghai Culture" brand, namely red culture, Jiangnan culture and Shanghai-style culture in various main activities, which makes people feel inadvertently the impact of the keyword "Shanghai Culture".
In the "Inheritance" chapter of the "Everlasting Pictures" movie poster exhibition, the three generations of filmmakers of Shanghai Film Studio set out to rebuild the industry as the reform and opening up started, and a large number of outstanding films spewed as a result, leaving people impressed by the power of Shanghai’s film industry; on the red carpet of the Golden Goblet Opening Ceremony, the young Shanghai actor Pan Xingyuan and the famous Shanghai movie actor Niu Ben walked on the star-studded red carpet wearing the CPC emblem, they were immediately greeted by the cameras of hundreds of media reporters; the only comedy that the late famous director Xie Jin directed, The Lis (Da Li Xiao Li and Lao Li), was dubbed in the Shanghainese language that ring familiar to local ears; the Shanghai opera movie Thunderstorm was launched, which will transform Cao Yu's famous play into a Shanghai opera to be shown on the big screen; A Soul Haunted by Painting was restored in 4K to tell again the story taking place in the Jiangnan region and Shanghai after having been adopted for the screen by the director Huang Shuqin many years before; the premier of the 2K restoration of A Nurse’s Diary took viewers on a time travel watching the performance of the great performing artist WANG Danfeng and the clear images shot in the 50’s and listening to the familiar song The Little Swallow.
Time didn’t freeze for film because of the ongoing film festival. On the contrary, even during the festival, the daily screenings, the information released, the dialogues going on at the forums, and outside all brought rapidly an endless stream of information. But the future of Shanghai’s film industry, the development of the "Shanghai Culture" brand and the refinement of the Shanghai film brand became trending topics of the festival, recurring on many occasions in high frequency. Shanghai’s filmmakers, be they employees of traditional studios or officers of private film and television organizations, are taking ownership in building this brand. Perhaps this is the responsibility and mission of filmmakers in the new era.
Amplifying the agglomeration effect to create a home field for film
After 25 years of polishing, at its 21st edition, the Shanghai International Film Festival is in bloom of youth and full of vigor and vitality, gaining more attention in world cinema. In May of this year, the International Federation of Film Producers Associations established the Film Festival Committee, of which the Shanghai International Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival are both designated members, further enhancing SIFF’s voice in international organizations. Thierry Frémaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival, showed up at SIFF instead of going on holidays after finishing a busy schedule, and in a short period of three days, he exchanged high-profile with Chinese film institutions. In his three-day visit, he met with many professionals from Chinese film organizations and when visiting the head of the festival he proposed that the two festivals of Europe and Asia work together. He said: "In world cinema, the status of the Shanghai International Film Festival is rapidly rising. It’s facing a historic development opportunity as China has become the most important country for film in the world." His world expressed his desire to seek more cooperation with SIFF.
Indeed, today when China is steadily moving from being a big market to a powerhouse for film, the Shanghai International Film Festival is becoming a unique brand with influence, attractiveness and competitiveness under the leadership of the national authorities and the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee and government. This year, 108 countries and regions submitted 3,447 films, a significant jump of nearly 1,000 from last year's 2,528. In the Film Panorama section, 492 excellent Chinese and foreign films were included in 30 themed units, which were screened in 45 movie theaters in Shanghai. In addition to a number of the latest popular films such as this year’s winner of Palme d’Or Shoplifters, classics by Chinese and foreign film masters such as Xie Jin, Louis Buñuel and James Cameron. Many screening units familiar to audiences such as SIFF Tribute to Masters, SIFF Classics, 4K Restoration, SIFF Highlights, Spectrum, etc. fully demonstrate the dynamics of world cinema and the diversity of the countries’ cultures. The screenings cover many films from around the world made in different periods to meet audiences’ need for diversified options. The premiere mechanism also played an important role in this. At this year’s festival 47 films were on their world premieres, 24 international premieres, 84 Asian premieres and 118 China premieres. The premiere mechanism allows China's outstanding films to go international, and the rest of the world's outstanding works to be seen by the Chinese audience through this platform. With the agglomeration effect of the “Grand Cultural Pier”, the “Shanghai Home Field” for the first release, premiere and first screening will be created. It also reflects the overall international influence of the Shanghai International Film Festival and its cultural confidence in the future.