Moviegoers call success of Beijing intl film festival a boost to confidence in resuming normal life post pandemic

By Cui Fandi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/30 18:56:05

An audience of 200 at the China Film Archive, BJIFF's main venue, before the screening of Russian film Persian Lessons (2020), its first screening in China, on August 29 in Beijing. Photo: Cui Fandi/GT. 

Nine days, 30 forums and seminars, 321 film screenings in 19 cinemas across Beijing attracting tens of thousands of participants, and zero new related COVID-19 cases reported. China has once again managed to ensure no resurgence of infections as it tries to bring normality back to life and business activity in the wake of fresh outbreaks in June.

Less than a month after the success of the Shanghai International Film Festival, the eight-day 10th Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF) concluded successfully on Saturday. 

With Cannes, New York, and Sydney taking their screenings online due to pandemic concerns, just 34 days after cinemas reopened in China, Beijing took the bold move of inviting audiences in.

As the nation's capital, Beijing has been cautious about major public events during the pandemic. Sha Dan, head curator of BJIFF, told the Global Times on Saturday that the initial planning for the festival started around last October. "We never stopped working even during times when the city was hit by the COVID-19 outbreak," Sha said, "We worked hard toward epidemic prevention, and as cinemas reopened, we made further adjustments."

Zero COVID-19 cases reported during the festival has demonstrated the BJIFF crew's cautiousness and the capital's effective anti-epidemic measures. 

According to Sha, in order to counter the risk of COVID-19, the BJIFF committee has reduced the total number of films in the schedule to around 50% of previous years, increased the time interval between films to ensure repeated disinfections, sold tickets in staggered seats, and added an online exhibition unit for screenings, which attracted 6.42 million viewers online. 

Moreover, citizens' self-discipline has been the key element in BJIFF's epidemic prevention. Everyone in the audience must wear facial masks while watching a film. They also had their temperatures taken before being allowed into the cinema, and registered their previous whereabouts in case a future epidemiological survey is required.

BJIFF's main venue, the China Film Archive, even prepared a gift bag for each visitor, which contained a facial mask and a pack of sanitizing wipes, among other souvenirs. 

Due to thorough preparations made for this year's BJIFF, attendance came in at an all-time high, even reaching 100% in some cinemas, Sha told the Global Times. 

The manager of Broadway Cinematheque MOMA, another BJIFF host, told the Global Times that they had never seen so many BJIFF participants before. "Beijingers have missed the cinema, and we are doing our best to ensure their safe return." 

And they did not let us down. One BJIFF participant noted that he did have concerns over this large-scale public event, but the committee's epidemic prevention measures set his mind at ease. 

"The success of BJIFF not only marks the bounceback of Beijing's film industry," the manager of Broadway Cinematheque MOMA said, "it's also the society's regaining confidence after the COVID-19 outbreak."

"It is like a boost of confidence to all citizens, who have had a tough year," said a moviegoer at China Film Archive. 

"I'm feeling Beijing's coming back to life, as it always has been," another movie lover told the Global Times. She has watched 15 movies in the past week, "thanks to every Beijinger's efforts."


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