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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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    Gene Ching
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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.
    Gene Ching
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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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    Gene Ching
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