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Thread: Asian Film Festivals and Awards

  1. #106
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    Where the Wind Blows

    Mar 29, 2021 6:59am PT
    Hong Kong Film Festival Cancels Opening Movie, Citing Unspecified Technical Reasons


    By Patrick Frater


    Shaw Organization
    The Hong Kong International Film Festival has announced the cancelation of its world premiere screening of crime thriller “Where the Wind Blows.” The move appears to be part of the accelerating ‘mainlandization’ of Hong Kong’s entertainment industry.

    The festival said Monday evening in a statement that screenings of “Where the Wind Blows” (previously known “Theory of Ambitions”) had been cancelled at the request of the film’s owner.

    “Upon request from the film owner, the screenings of ‘Where the Winds Blows’ originally scheduled at 5.30 p.m. on 1 April and 2.30 p.m. on 4 April are cancelled due to technical reasons,” the festival said in a statement in English and Chinese.

    The film was produced by Hong Kong’s Mei Ah Film Production in a co-venture with mainland Chinese firms Dadi Century and Global Group. Its production budget has been reported as $38 million.

    The film is directed by Philip Yung, who made the acclaimed “Port of Call,” and stars Tony Leung Chiu-wai (“In the Mood for Love”) and superstar singer-actor Aaron Kwok (“Monkey King,” “Cold War”). Kwok was additionally named as the festival’s goodwill ambassador.

    Rooted in the long-established vein of Hong Kong crime films, “Where the Wind Blows” “depicts the friendship and rivalry between two ambitious detectives who form dangerous alliances with organized crime,” according to the HKIFF catalog. The IMDd synopsis describes it slightly differently: “A corrupt police sergeant’s career is curtailed by the launch of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption.”

    “Technical reasons” is widely understood in mainland China as a euphemism for censorship. It was the phrase used for the abrupt cancelation of Zhang Yimou’s “One Second” at the 2019 Berlin film festival and for the last-minute halt of “The Eight Hundred” which had been set as the opening film at the Shanghai festival later the same year.

    Portraying corruption on screen has previously been difficult for filmmakers on the mainland. In contrast, Hong Kong filmmakers, including Johnny To, Andrew Lau, Longman Leung, Felix Chong and Alan Mak, have reveled in dramatic and exciting portrayals of crime, corruption and abuse of power.

    Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper had reported that Mei Ah previously aimed to release the film at the end of 2018. But it was then thwarted by the mainland’s National Radio and Television Administration because the film dealt with police corruption and Triad organized crime gangs.

    What makes the latest case harder and more perplexing is that “Where the Wind Blows” is set in the 1960s and the period of British colonial rule; nor have Hong Kong films previously followed mainland edicts within Hong Kong.

    Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law, specifies that the Special Administrative Region has the ability to set its own policies on matters such as culture, education and technical standards. Hong Kong has never previously applied the mainland Chinese system of movie censorship, and instead operates the kind of ratings or classification system that is widely used in western democracies.

    However, since Beijing’s injection of the National Security Law into Hong Kong law and the shutdown of the pro-democracy camp’s ability to act as legislators, the entertainment, arts and media sectors have increasingly become the focus of scrutiny.

    Award-winning pro-democracy documentary film “Behind the Red Brick Wall” was pulled from cinemas earlier this month before it could get a commercial screening. Hong Kong broadcasters have followed the example of mainland media and ditched their plans to screen the Oscars ceremony, where another democracy movement film “Do Not Split” has been nominated in the short documentary category. And public broadcaster RTHK has been repeatedly sanctioned over matters such as satirizing the police and its investigative journalism techniques. In recent weeks, pro-Beijing lawmakers have asked for artworks by exiled Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to be removed from the new M+ Museum at the West Kowloon Cultural Centre.

    The 45th edition of HKIFF is scheduled to run April 1-12, 2021.
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  2. #107
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    Pingyao Film Festival

    Jun 1, 2021 3:21am PT
    Jia Zhangke and Pingyao Film Festival to Return for Fifth Edition


    By Patrick Frater


    PYIFF
    Iconic Chinese indie film director Jia Zhangke is to make a return to the Pingyao International Film Festival that he founded and which he famously quit at the end of the October 2020 edition. His new role remains somewhat murky.

    Jia was a speaker at a launch event Tuesday in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, used to announce the festival’s dates, the appointment of Lin Xudong as artistic director, and confirm other staffing arrangements for the next edition. The fifth edition will run in the ancient city, close to Jia’s birthplace, Oct. 12-19, 2021.

    Last year Jia dropped a bombshell at the festival’s final day press conference and announced that he was standing down. He discussed succession and leadership issues, dropped hints about financial issues with the Pingyao city government and appeared to take issue with a takeover of the festival by the Shanxi authorities.

    The abrupt nature of Jia’s exit added to the concerns of recent years that Chinese film festivals are being pulled closer into government control and that Jia’s larger than life, indie-style may have become a liability, rather than an asset.

    “I should’ve left [the festival] earlier and begun to groom a new team to take over the festival, so that this festival can get rid of ‘Jia Zhangke’s shadow’,” Jia himself said last year.

    The 2021 festival has indeed been “upgraded to provincial level,” according to a statement, meaning that it will be jointly operated by the Pingyao Film Festival Co., Ltd. and Shanxi Film Academy of Shanxi Communication University. But the same announcement also proclaimed that the festival will “maintain the original program structure and its existing characteristics,” and also “start again with a new attitude.”

    Jia went on record to thank local officials for their “care and attention to PYIFF” and said this was “powerful motivation” to continue. His exact role remains unclear. “This year, I hope to be the chief experience officer, to join the audience watching films and meeting filmmakers in the cinema,” he said.

    Jia may not get to apply his ideological heft directly in the running of the festival, but he was allowed Tuesday to speak of the festival “usher(ing) in important strategic opportunities that cry for reform and innovation.”

    And the 2021 selection team sees the return of several Jia allies. Former Venice and Locarno festival chief Marco Mueller becomes chief consultant, advising on general strategies and responsibility for selections of foreign language films.

    Marie-Pierre Duhamel, Wu Jueren, Jeremy Chua, Alena Sumakova, Deepti D’Cunha, Tomita Mikiko, Sandra Hebron, and Diego Lerer, will return to assist Mueller selecting international films. No mention was made of the programmers selecting the Chinese-titles.

    New artistic director Lin was described as a “film editor, film critic, documentary film researcher and painter.”
    So he really didn't quit at all then.
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  3. #108
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    Shanghai Film Festival

    Jun 7, 2021 10:16pm PT
    Shanghai Film Festival Ticket Prices Exceed $550 as Demand Soars

    By Rebecca Davis


    Rurouni Kenshin The Final
    Warner Bros. Japan
    At a time when viewers around the world remain wary of returning to cinemas, the Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) once again can’t keep up with local audiences. Demand is so high that viewers are paying enormous sums to get hold of scalped tickets, including more than $300 to see an art house film released more than two decades ago.

    The festival sparks an annual online crush as film lovers vie Black Friday-style for its limited tickets the moment they’re released for sale. SIFF sold nearly 150,000 tickets within five minutes on the first day of sales in 2019, and more than 100,000 tickets in ten minutes last year, despite occurring as an in-person event just weeks after cinemas reopened for the first time post-COVID-19.

    With theater capacity still capped at 75%, the event’s 2021 iteration set to run from June 11-20 has proved just as popular, despite the full line-up being announced just two days before sales began. More than 400 films will screen at SIFF this year, among them 73 world premieres, 42 international premieres, 89 Asian premieres and 99 Chinese premieres, totaling 303 premieres in all.

    Ticket sales on the ticketing platform Taopiaopiao, the festival’s sole official online retailer, opened at 8AM local time last Friday. Frantic buyers crashed the platform’s app within the first minute of sales. By 8:05AM, the platform issued a public apology for technical difficulties and a related hashtag became a top 20 most searched term on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.

    The rush for tickets even ensnared a reporter for the government-run CCTV 6 movie channel doing a live demo of the ticket-buying process.

    “It’s 8:01AM, and the Taopiaopiao app has already collapsed. Film fans across the entire country are all on here right now,” he said with a tinge of both hilarity and dejection as he repeatedly refreshed purchase pages for “Silence of the Lambs,” “The Godfather 3,” and “The Legend of 1900,” to no avail.

    Sky-High Prices
    Beyond the technical difficulties thwarting regular movie-goers are cabals of organized scalpers, who fall primarily into two categories: professionals snatching up spots for profitable resale, and passionate fans willing to do whatever it takes to secure a chance to watch their obsessions on the big screen.

    Their combined efforts this year propelled tickets on the secondary market to upwards of 20 times their original price, despite efforts from players like Taopiaopiao to stamp out scalping channels such as the eBay-like secondhand sales Xianyu.

    For example, while the original ticket price for the restored 4K version of Lee Chang-dong’s “Peppermint Candy” was $17 (RMB110) — already much higher than the national average of around $6 (RMB38) — scalped tickets sold for as much as $313 (RMB2,000).

    “At RMB2,000 a ticket, do I get Lee Chang-dong sitting next to me as I watch?” one incredulous film fan joked on Weibo.

    Japan Fever
    For fans of Japanese content, SIFF screenings can offer a rare opportunity to interact with Japanese idols who rarely do publicity in China, such as Katayose Ryota, who hit the Shanghai red carpet in his first overseas festival appearance in 2019 to promote the animation “Ride Your Wave.”


    This year, the most sought-after titles were again Japanese.

    Leading the pack were screenings for the five live-action film adaptations of the popular manga “Rurouni Kenshin,” the first non-Hollywood blockbuster franchise to be invited to appear in SIFF’s film franchise section. Most hotly anticipated are the series’ latest two installments, “Rurouni Kenshin: The Final” and “Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning” — new releases that just debuted in Japan on April 23 and June 4, respectively, selling via scalpers at Shanghai for $280 (RMB1,800) a ticket.

    Fans were also eager to get tickets to the world premiere of concert film “ARASHI Anniversary Tour 5 x 20 Film – Record of Memories.” It chronicles one of the last concerts of the 2018-2019 “5×20” tour of long-standing Japanese mega-group Arashi, now on an indefinite hiatus.

    Tickets were available on Xianyu for up to $313 (RMB2,000), while at least one sold via a fan group went for a whopping $548 (RMB3,500). Even that is not yet the ceiling: a super-fan in Shenzhen put out a desperate plea over the weekend offering $1,560 (RMB10,000) for a ticket.

    The film isn’t even subtitled in Chinese.

    Many viewers end up hiring an intermediary team of professional ticket grabbers to nab spots on their behalf for fees that can hit over $100 per seat.

    One group that stockpiled popular tickets sent interested buyers a menu of titles and prices between $188 and $282 (RMB1,200-RMB1,800).

    “You can’t select a screening time for these tickets – you have to take whatever we give you,” the service explained. “If you can accept these prices, please contact us in two hours. Currently there are so many people asking that we don’t have time to respond.”

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  4. #109
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    Best film at Locarno

    ‘Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash’ Wins Locarno Film Festival
    Indonesian director Edwin's homage to and deconstruction of Asian 1980s action movies wins the Golden Leopard at the 2021 Locarno Film Festival. Dario Argento takes the lifetime achievement award.

    BY SCOTT ROXBOROUGH

    AUGUST 14, 2021 8:26AM

    'Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash' THE MATCH FACTORY

    Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash, Indonesian director Edwin’s homage to and deconstruction of 1980s ultra-violent Asian action movies, has won the Golden Leopard for best film at the 2021 Locarno International Film Festival.

    The feature, an adaptation of the novel by Indonesian writer Eka Kurniawan, is a revenge tale involving a hired killer who uses violence to compensate for his public shame in being impotent and a female fighter who takes over his burden of vengeance. It stars Ajo Kawir and Ladya Cheryl. The Match Factory is handling international sales.

    In a surprise announcement at the Locarno award ceremony, held Saturday, the festival gave its lifetime achievement award to Italian director Dario Argento The famed filmmaker behind horror classics Suspiria (1977) and Tenebrae (1982), was also honored for his surprising lead performance as an aging father in Gaspar Noé’s Vortex, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

    The Leopard for best director went to New York veteran filmmaker Abel Ferrara for Zeros and Ones, a thriller starring Ethan Hawke as an American soldier assigned to a mysterious mission in Rome after the Vatican has been blown up.

    The best actress honor went to Anastasiya Krasovskaya for her starring role in Natalya Kudryashova’s Russian drama Gerda. Mohamed Mellali and Valero Escolar took a joint best actor honor for The Odd-Job Men by Spanish filmmaker Neus Ballús. The surrealist comedy, which follows plumbers dealing with a series of eccentric clients, also won the European Cinemas Network honor for Best European film at Locarno. Beta Cinema is selling the movie worldwide.

    In Locarno’s Concorso Cineasti del Presente sidebar of first and second films, Francesco Montagner’s documentary Brotherhood, which follows three Bosnian brothers, born into a family of shepherds, took the best film honor. The best emerging director award went to Hleb Papou for his drama The Legionnaire, about the only African-Italian officer in Rome’s riot police; Saskia Rosendahl won the best actress honor for her performance in Sabrina Sarabi’s No One’s With The Calves, with Gia Agumava taking the section’s best actor prize for his starring role in Elene Naveriani’s Wet Sand.

    A special jury prize went to Émilie Aussel for the coming-of-age drama Our Eternal Summer. British director Charlotte Colbert took the best first feature honor for her debut, She Will, starring Malcolm McDowell, Alice Krige, and Rupert Everett.

    The 74th Locarno International Film Festival wrapped up Aug. 14 with a gala screening of Liesl Tommy’s Aretha Franklin biopic Respect starring Jennifer Hudson.

    The full list of 2021 Locarno Film Festival winners

    Golden Leopard for Best Film

    Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash, dir. Edwin

    Special Jury Prize of the Cities of Ascona and Losone

    A New Old Play, dir. Qui Jiongjiong

    Leopard for Best Director

    Abel Ferrara for Zeros and Ones

    Leopard for Best Actress

    Anastasiya Krasovskaya for Gerda, dir. Natalya Kudryashova

    Leopard for Best Actor

    Mohamed Mellali and Valero Escolar for The Odd-Job Men, dir. Neus Ballús

    Special Mentions

    Soul of a Beast, dir. Lorenz Merz

    Espiritu Sagrado, dir. Chema García Ibarra

    Concorso Cineasti del presente Awards

    Leopard for Best Film

    Brotherhood, dir. Francesco Montagner

    Best Emerging Director

    Hleb Papou for The Legionnaire

    Special Jury Prize Ciné+

    Our Eternal Summer, dir. Émilie Aussel

    Leopard for Best Actress

    Saskia Rosendahl for No One’s By The Calves, dir. Sabrina Sarabi

    Leopard for Best Actor

    Gia Agumava for Wet Sand, dir. Elene Naveriani

    Best First Feature

    She Will, dir. Charlotte Colbert

    Special Mention

    Holy Emy, dir. Araceli Lemos

    Lifetime Achievement Award

    Dario Argento
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    Asian-Film-Festivals-and-Awards I know, I know, Locarno is in Italy. We don't have a non-Asian Film Festival thread yet...
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  5. #110
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    Pingyao Film Festival Awards

    Oct 18, 2021 5:55pm PT
    China’s Pingyao Film Festival Awards Final Prizes Amid Deadly Floods, Collapsed City Walls and Idol Fan Pandemonium


    By Rebecca Davis

    Pingyao Intl. Film Festival
    Deadly flooding did not divert this year’s Pingyao International Film Festival from running its full course, with the event drawing to a close Monday with an award ceremony honoring Egyptian director Omar El Zohairy, India’s Natesh Hegde, and China’s Kong Dashan and Wei Shujun with top prizes.

    Many anticipated that this fifth edition of the festival would be different, given the shifting role of its co-founder and leading light, director Jia Zhangke. He unexpectedly stepped down last year, only to recant and come back in the nebulous role of “chief experience officer” months ago.

    Instead, this year’s iteration has been more memorable for the backdrop of historically heavy rains that have left at least 15 dead, more than 120,000 relocated, and an estimated 1.8 million people affected in the inland Shanxi province.

    The show went on in Pingyao, even though some three dozen parts of the picturesque ancient capital’s old city walls had collapsed in the earlier merciless downpour.

    Festival sponsor Zhiwen Group (formerly Momo Inc.) had donated $1.56 million (RMB10 million) to local relief funds at the opening ceremony, and the event will end Tuesday with a relief charity screening of the closing short “The Last Director on Earth,” which stars Jia and director Ning Hao.

    Alongside the charity has come a greater turn toward commercialism, one made unavoidably clear by the hundreds of fans present at the typically low-key, intimate festival to catch a glimpse of their idol Karry Wang, the singer-actor from TFBoys. Two days before the festival’s start, he was abruptly made a youth jury member and “contributing curator.”

    When eyebrows were raised at the young superstar’s lack of extensive cinematic experience or accolades, organizers explained that he would also be curating the music for an after party and appear on a panel about “new youth” in Chinese cinema.

    On the festival’s red carpet, Wang took in the scene with a bland, unsmiling expression and declined to identify any upcoming projects. Doting fans waving cellphones and cameras pushed so hard in his direction that security guards could barely keep the guard rails in place.

    As was the case in 2020, few international guests are in attendance given the difficulty of entering China during the ongoing pandemic.

    Pingyao’s Prizes
    Pingyao’s Roberto Rossellini Awards are accorded to films in the festival’s dozen entry-strong Crouching Tigers section, which includes international directorial debuts and second features.

    The $20,000 prize for best film went to El Zohairy’s “Feathers,” the surrealistic comedy that won the grand prize at Cannes Critics’ Week earlier this year. Half the funds will go to its China distributor Huanxi Media. First time helmer Hegde won the $10,000 prize for best director for “Pedro,” which premiered last month in Busan’s New Currents section.

    “Prayers for the Stolen (Noche de Fuego)” — writer-director Tatiana Huezo’s documentary-like first feature about life amid the violence of Mexico’s drug cartels — won the jury prize, coming off a special mention in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section. “What Do We See When We Look at the Sky (Ras vkhedavt, rodesac cas vukurebt)” from Georgia’s Alexandre Koberidze, which premiered in competition at Berlin in March, won Pingyao’s special mention.

    The festival’s other 10-film Hidden Dragon section is dedicated to first, second and third features in the Chinese language, which compete for the Fei Mu Awards.

    Kong Dashan’s “Journey to the West” won the Cinephilia Critics’ Award as well as the Fei Mu for best film, which is accompanied by a prize of $156,000 (RMB1 million prize), half of which will go to his Chinese distribution company. The award was jointly funded by 10 Chinese directors: Cheng Er, Chen Sicheng, Diao Yinan, Feng Xiaogang, Guan Hu, Jia Zhang-Ke, Lou Ye, Ning Hao, Wang Xiaoshuai and Zhang Yibai.

    Up-and-coming Cannes favorite Wei Shujun won best director for his “Ripples of Life,” which comes with $31,000 (RMB200,000) to use to develop his next film — prize-money funded by Chinese actor Zhang Yi (“Cliff Walkers”). The film premiered at Cannes in this year’s Director’s Fortnight section.

    Huang Miyi won the best actress prize for her work in “Gaey Wa’r (Streetwise)” by Na Jiazuo, which also came out in Un Certain Regard earlier this year. Zou Tao won best actor for his work in “Karma” from Zheng Peike. “Venus by Water” from director Wang Lin won the jury award, while “Farewell, My Hometown” from Wang Erzhuo won the prize for special mention. “Immanuel” from Han Tianchu won the Fei Mu award for best short, and was accorded $4,700 (RMB30,000) in development funds.

    Karry Wang’s youth jury awarded its two prizes to Kong’s “Journey to the West” and Wei’s “Ripples of Life” as well.
    Promoter determination...
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