24th SIFF’s ‘hybrid’ event comes to a close
Published: Jun 21, 2021 07:03 PM
Iranian director Abolfazl Jalili (left) and Japanese actress Kumiko Aso attend the Rome Film Fest on October 19, 2007. Photo: AFP

Iranian director Abolfazl Jalili (left) and Japanese actress Kumiko Aso attend the Rome Film Fest on October 19, 2007. Photo: AFP


Self-taught Chinese filmmaker Geng Jun on Saturday won the 24th Shanghai International Film Festival's Golden Goblet for best feature with his dark comedy Manchurian Tiger, a film which looks at how people can resolve their differences when they share life's struggles. 

Geng's black comedy follows the path a collection of offbeat characters take as their fates cross, and they go from conflict to friendship. The Golden Goblet jury highlighted the way the film depicted "ordinary people" and their "aspirations for the future." 

Talking to the world 

Chinese director Huang Jianxin, who chaired the jury, praised the films on show across the competition. 

"When we judges watched the films and talked, we all felt that film explores the art of communication, which is something that needs empathy," said Huang. 

"We feel the Shanghai International Film Festival this year has a great impact on showing the determination of Chinese filmmakers to communicate with the world."

The glittering Golden Goblet awards ceremony was held in Shanghai on Saturday, with final screenings at the 10-day event held on Sunday.

Iranian filmmaker Abolfazl Jalili picked up the Golden Goblet's best director statue for his drama The Contrary Route, a film that follows the story of a teen boy with dreams of becoming a director himself. Jalili was beamed in to Shanghai from his home in Iran and managed to sum up the mood across this SIFF. 

"The distance is not a problem for us to communicate," he said, before revealing that he one day hoped to "cooperate with Chinese filmmakers on a new production that explores humanity." 

Among the other top award winners were Iranian youngster Pouyan Shekari, who collected the best actor prize for his turn in The Contrary Route, and Polish actress Marzena Gajewska, named best actress for her role in the Iwona Siekierzynska-directed comedy-drama Amateurs.

The Golden Goblets' jury included Singaporean filmmaker Anthony Chen, China's Deng Chao and Song Jia, veteran festival head Marco Mueller and the China-based French producer Natacha Devillers. They awarded the Jury Grand Prix to Malaysian film Barbarian Invasion, from director Tan Chui Mui.

'Hybrid' event

The 2021 edition of SIFF was the first to expand its reach across the Yangtze River Delta, with six cities outside Shanghai hosting 36 screenings as part of the Belt and Road Film Festival Alliance that aims to promote filmmaking in the region.

Organizers said they were confident that the "hybrid" nature of the event - part live, part online - had kept channels of communication open, across the country and around the world.

"We believe that we must persist in communicating with the international industry," said Fu Wenxia, managing director of the Shanghai International Film & TV Events Centre. 

"So we have done our best to pave the way and allow international industry professionals to participate."

Those efforts saw the likes of Jia and Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul share a dialogue about cinema, their friendship and their lives as part of the SIFF MasterClasses program.

Other guests to join the MasterClasses included martial arts star Donnie Yen, Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov and the veteran Italian festival programmer Marco Mueller, China's Pema Tseden, and Danis Tanovic, whose war-themed No Man's Land won an Oscar in 2001.

Tanovic also joined SIFF online from his home in Bosnia and expressed a strong desire to both visit the festival once pandemic restrictions ease global travel, and to share the creative process with Chinese filmmakers.

The director said he believed that movies from all over the world were "the same as DNA - mostly in common, and slightly different." 

Persistence and love

A new initiative for 2021 was the SIFF YOUNG program, a collaboration with the Cannes Film Festival's Marché du Film market and business section to "promote Chinese films to overseas markets" and to "allow overseas industries to reach the increasingly important China film market."

Among the rising stars of Chinese cinema to be involved in the initiative was director, actor and screenwriter Liang Ming, and he had a message to share with his contemporaries.

"From my point of view, the most important thing is persistence supported by the love of films," said Liang.

The success of in-person gatherings at the SIFF came as the event stuck to strict national and local safety protocols. Both organizers and film fans will now look to 2022, and to the 25th anniversary of China's longest-running international film festival under what are hoped to be more usual circumstances.

"This platform was not built by our team alone," said Fu.

"It is the accumulation of the growth of the Chinese film market and the result of years of support from Chinese cinema fans. In such a starting point, we must keep our dedication and become more professional to tell the stories of Chinese filmmakers in a better way [and] share the development of Chinese film industries and markets with international film industries."

blog comments powered by Disqus