Film fest reels in contracts for China

The second Beijing International Film Festival, which featured Hollywood director James Cameron and a week of films from 54 countries and regions, ended on the weekend with a gala concert by London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and other performers from around the world.

Li Chunliang, director of Beijing Municipal Bureau of Radio, Film and Television, pronounced the event at Olympic Park a success, noting that contracts worth more than 5.2 billion yuan (S$1,051 million) had been signed.

"While there is still much work to do to promote the festival's brand and Chinese films in the global market," he said, "the BIFF has established a platform for cooperation and the exchange of ideas here."

Li said he was especially pleased with the public participation in the festival's carnival, which registered nearly 1 million turnstile entries at the park.

Li said it was too early to tell if next year's festival would be at the same site, or if the 2013 event would include awards for films.

Cameron and 3-D photography guru Vince Pace's company announced plans to set up a China headquarters in the city of Tianjin, a move to promote 3-D technologies among Chinese filmmakers, broadcasters and game designers.

The Avatar director signed a cooperation deal for Cameron Pace Group with representatives from Tianjin Binhai New District and Tianjin North Film Group, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Asked if the festival could attract someone like Cameron next year, Li said the key was a strong market and strong base of film production. "We are strong enough in both to sustain that," he said.

Peng Wei, the deputy director, said the festival has advantages that will help it grow, even though the event is much newer than established festivals in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

While the surging Chinese film industry will boost all of the country's cinema festivals, she said, "without competition there is no progress".

The key for Beijing's event is to find its own features and characteristics, not put on the same kind of festival as other Chinese cities do.

"We've set our eyes on the global market. Beijing is a natural culture center because it is China's capital," she said, noting there is strong financial and organizational support from the municipal government to promote such programs.

"And Beijing is home to many filmmakers and film companies."

Peng noted that many suburbs now have theaters thanks to government subsidies, and said that a travel program also made cinemas accessible for migrant workers.

"So we are developing the habit of going to the cinema here," she said. "The culture industry can only thrive if people consume more culture products."

In exchanges with other countries, China's film industry benefits from Western technology and special-effects experience, she said, but China offers the West technical expertise as well.

"Beyond that, we have 5,000 years of culture and history and stories," she said, noting that having a good story to tell was critical to any film.

The key to joint projects with foreign production houses, she said, was developing stories Western audiences can understand without losing the original nature that resonates with Chinese audiences.

Films such as Mulan and Kung Fu Panda, she added, were good examples of that duality's success.

Bollywood was a good example of a developing country's culture penetrating the global film market, Peng said.

"But not only India. Opening up to the diversity of the world means better films for festivals like the BIFF and better films for the world."

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