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The 17th Shanghai International Film Festival
   2014-06-24 15:37:55    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Liu Kun

American movie actress Natalie Portman at the 17th Shanghai International Film Festival. [Photo:cfp.cn]



Hello and welcome to this edition of "In the Spotlight", a show featuring arts, culture and showbiz from right here in China. I'm your host, Li Ningjing.
The popcorn was swept up and the seats vacated as the credits rolled during the conclusion of the 17th Shanghai International Film Festival this past weekend. Considered one of Asia's top film galas, the festival not only attracted a star-studded attendance list and industry insiders ready to debate about the future of film; countless cinephiles also flocked to the festival, braving long queues to view even longer-anticipated premiere screenings.
On this special edition of "In the Spotlight," we bring you to the front-row of the 17th Shanghai International Film Festival.
We will take you on a behind-the-scenes look at how old cinema classics are getting a new makeover. At the festival's "4K restored Classics" unit, films such as "The Godfather" and "Tess" have been restored and re-released in 4K resolution¡ªwhich will no doubt wow old fans, while gaining new ones.
Also, with more works coming out of closer relations between the Chinese and U.S. film worlds, we will bring you a top-level discussion from the festival about how China-U.S. co-productions can continue to benefit both sides, as well as movie fans.
However, the U.S. isn't the only country eyeing China for movie collaborations. We will take a look at how the country's booming movie market is attracting attention from down under, as Australia's movie makers are looking to collaborate more with their Chinese counterparts.
And last, but definitely not least, the internet is reshaping how the world consumes cinema, from the way we watch films to the way we buy tickets for movies. We'll dive into how the world of film coincides with today's digital age.
So plenty of entertaining and informative stories are up ahead on "In the Spotlight," stay with us.
At the 17th Shanghai International Film Festival, the organizing committee has cooperated with top-level international movie laboratories to restore classic Chinese movies with 4K resolution.
Our reporter Liu Kun sent this report from Shanghai.

The classic Chinese film "Stage Sisters " got a make-over for its new global premiere. Having been restored in color and 4K resolution, this 1964 classic opened this year's Shanghai International Film Festival at the city's Daguangming Grand Theater, where the movie first wowed audiences about half a century ago.
The two sisters in the movie, Xie Fang and Cao Yindi, and one of the actors, Xu Caigen, now all around their 80s, are in attendance, taking the stage to meet their fans.
Cao Yindi, one of the sisters says, from watching a sample of the restoration, she feels excited and renewed.
"The color of the movie has been greatly improved. And the restored movie has a bigger resolution. The restored version just gave me a brand new experience of the movie. As one of the leading actresses, I am happy and excited to see that the movie has been restored to open this year's festival. And I think Director Xie Jin would be pleased to see this, too, if he was still with us."
The film is a masterpiece by the late director Xie Jin, who is one of the most influential Chinese filmmakers of the 20th century.
"Stage Sisters" chronicles the different financial and political fortunes of two Yue Opera artists before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
The 4K digital restoration technology has improved the movie's resolution and brought back its original colors and sounds.
Under the coordination of the organizing committee of the film festival, it took six months of hard work for L'Immagine Ritrovata Film Restoration Laboratory in Bologna, Italy, to restore the movie. The organizing committee says restoring the classic in 4K resolution costs a huge fortune, about four times the cost of 2K.
Davide Pozzi, director of the laboratory, says they were careful to respect and keep the original flavor of the movie during the restoration process.
"We did the restoration in 4K resolution which is the top level restoration since today. The picture has some scratches and we have to fix everything. And then we did the correction and some restoration. Correction was important for this film because we have to respect the original look of the film. For that we did a lot of research. We read a lot of books and interviews. At the same time, we did the restoration of the sounds."
Wu Jueren, a curator with the Shanghai Film Museum and one of the initiators of the restoration, explains that they wavered over the presentation of the movie's colors in the restoration process. As a product of the 1960s, director Xie Jin made efforts to convey the heat of social movements back then by using grand and exaggerated colors. But on the other hand, he was also an avid supporter of traditional Chinese artistic conception of peaceful and tender renditions.
Wu says they made their final decision only after they consulted the opinion of the original production team of the movie.
"We did a lot of research and we relied heavily on the memory of the original production team--then we set the color. We made the decision based on the opinion of the vice director, the cinematographer and two actors from the movie."
This is the first time ever that a movie restored with 4K resolution has been released on the Chinese mainland.
Wu Jueren further elaborates that they were careful when choosing how to restore the film.
"Why are there only just about 10 really good restoration institutions around the world? Because these institutions are equipped with not only the most advanced technology, but also a fine understanding of film history and aesthetics. If the restoring institution does not know enough about film history and aesthetics, its restoration will turn out to be a problem."
On the Italian side, director Davide Pozzi is looking forward to restoring more Chinese classics.
"In China there's a huge heritage to be discovered. A lot of things from the past are now available in DVDs, but the quality is quite bad because the standard has changed."
Alongside "Stage Sisters," the organizing committee of the festival has also introduced a number of other 4K restored classics from different countries and genres. Among the list are the 1934 French classic "Les Mis¨¦rables," the 1960 movie "Purple Noon," led by French actor Alain Delon, and American director Martin Scorsese's two masterpieces, "Taxi Driver" and "The Age of Innocence."
Apart from dominating major cinemas, these 4K restorations are also screened in open air parks around the city during the festival.
China-US film co-production is becoming a new trend at this year's festival. However, industry insiders suggest that, to achieve better co-productions, a number of key issues need to be addressed.
Liu Kun has more from Shanghai.

The red carpet of this year's Shanghai International Film Festival saw a considerable amount of film casts combining actors and actresses from both China and the U.S.
Chinese movie mogul Jackie Chan showed up with American actor John Cusack to promote the yet to be produced 2015 film, "Dragon Blade".
Popular Chinese actress Liu Yifei graced the carpet as the leading actress from China-US co-production, "Outcast". Her American opposite, Nicolas Cage, however, didn't appear.
Ye Ning, Chief Operating Officer of Wanda Media, says to cooperate with and learn from the U.S. is a process that the Chinese film industry has to go through.
"China-U.S. co-production is a stage we must experience. It's a trend and nothing will be able to stop it. China's movie industry is still in a very early stage, so we should be ready to learn from others."
Ye Ning's company has just announced co-production plans with renowned American studio, The Weinstein Company, to make the movie "Southpaw".
Su Xiao, Chief Executive Officer of SMG Pictures, echoes Ye Ning, citing an incident from his own experience working with his American counterparts.
"To give a simple example, there are few Chinese production teams who are able to complete shooting a chain of car crash scenes on highways nowadays."
Earlier this year, SMG Pictures signed an agreement of about 80 million U.S. dollars with Walt Disney. The investment will be used to produce action, fantasy and adventure films aiming at the global market.
Joe Aguilar, head of Drama and TV Department at Oriental DreamWorks, has been dipping his toe in China-U.S. co-production since 2012. Co-founded by American company DreamWorks Animation and Shanghai Media Group, Oriental DreamWorks' ambition is to produce the 3rd installment of "Kungfu Panda".
From his own experience, Joe Aguilar says both sides could benefit from the complementary nature of the partnership.
"We are bringing certain expertise to the process. But what we don't know is what the Chinese audience want, what is the best way to tell the story. And that's what we are looking forward and has been talking to several Chinese partners about cooperating together because we feel like we need their understanding of the market and they need our understanding of professionalism and making quality movies."
At the early stage of co-productions, both Chinese and American producers are exploring the key issues that will pave the way for future collaborations.
Zhang Zhao, chief executive officer of Le Vision Pictures, says he considers the following factors to be crucial.
"Why can cooperating with American film companies be difficult? Because the market model hasn't been established yet. Also, intellectual property and a user system are another two things that hinder the unification of a global market."
Zhang further explains that, at the beginning stage, mutual respect and a certain degree of blind trust are needed from both American and Chinese film companies for progress to be made.
As the movie market in China expands, investors both foreign and domestic are coming out of the woodworks to fund the next big cinematic hit. Australia is one of the many countries interested in finding partners in China's to capitalize on the country's booming film industry.
Doris Wang takes a look at what the country Down Under has to offer.

Sandy beaches, vast deserts and beautiful skylines. These are the things that people want to see when traveling to Australia. But do you know that these exact places are what film crews are looking for when making a movie?
Over the years, a great number of film productions have taken advantage of Australia's diverse landscape. This year, however, the Australian film industry is looking for production partnerships in China. At the just concluded 17th Shanghai International Film Festival, the Australian delegation had a record-breaking attendance.
Six Australian films have been selected to screen in the festival, two of which were in the competition for the Golden Goblet Award. The two films include Canopy, which is about the friendship between an Australian fighter pilot and a Chinese soldier during the Second World War as they make their way through a jungle in Thailand, and Predestination, a time-traveling thriller.
Kristy Officer, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Ausfilm, shares her excitement.
"We've got six Australian films in the Shanghai International Film Festival this year, which is fantastic. I think that there's a growing interest for Australian filmmakers in the China region, especially in Shanghai due to a lot of collaborations between the SIFF and Screen Australia and Ausfilm to enhance opportunities for filmmakers in the region."
Ausfilm is a partnership organization, whose aim is to attract international film and television production and post-production to Australia. It has sent representative this year to the Shanghai Film Festival. In promoting the Australian incentive, Ausfilm had organized a film industry forum. Experts were invited to discuss the possibilities of co-production, joint-ventures, and investment opportunities for both countries.
According to Officer, even though the Co-Production treaty between China and Australia has just been signed in 2007, both countries have been working together on films long before that.
"I think there's a strong bond between the two territories because there are a lot of cultural similarities. Culturally in Australia, we have a large Chinese population. So Australia is a very multicultural society. There's a lot of understanding of Chinese culture in Australia."
And it's that cultural understanding that led Adam Scott to looking for partners in China nearly 20 years ago. Scott is a post-production specialist and general manager of Spectrum Films.
He says that working with Chinese production companies is no different than working with any other partner. Collaborating with people in the Chinese film industry since 1996, he feels that the biggest challenge isn't the cultural barrier but finding the right people to work with.
"It's really about working with like minded people. I think if you find the right production company and like minded people, you'll instantly get on. At the end of the day, we're all trying to finish the film or the TV show or whatever we're working on. We're all working on this together and we all want to have a good finish product."
There are a lot of reasons that Chinese directors and producers should consider partnerships with Australian filmmakers. According to Ausfilm's representative Kristy Officer, those who qualify for the Co-Production Treaty can get access to three high levels of incentives.
"One is the location incentive, which is for if you come to shoot your film in various areas of Australia. One is a post-production incentive. So if you use Australian post-production services or visual effect services, there's a 30% incentive for the cost of your expenditure in Australia. And then the highest incentive that we have is for co-production. That's a 40% incentive available to those filmmakers from China on the cost and expenditure of that production in Australia."
Post-production company executive Adam Scott says that China also has a lot of offer to Australia and he is always on the lookout for new partners.
"There's a lot of crew up here, a lot of very good crew, very good operators. What we are looking for is a similar company up here in China to collaborate on projects together. Maybe we could help with the post-production. If they need to shoot in Australia, we can look after that part of it."
According to Kristy Officer, there's a lot more work that both countries can do together and there are still some very interesting story that can be told through collaboration between China and Australia. She hopes that this year's film festival will act as a kickstart to many more partnerships and coproductions to come.
At this year's Festival, heads of both traditional movie companies and video websites are suggesting that the internet is reshaping the way people watch movies, as well as how production houses fill theater seats.
Liu Kun has more from Shanghai.

Imagine yourself watching "Coming Home," the latest film by director Zhang Yimou, during the weekend on a TV set with 4K resolution from an online video portal, when others have to drag themselves to a cinema.
At the on-going 17th Shanghai International Film Festival, Gao Fei, vice president of popular video website Le TV, has just confirmed that the above scenario will be possible in just a few days.
Gao says, once equipped with larger screens, watching movies over the internet at home will give audiences almost the same experience as watching a film in a cinema.
"Nowadays, 4K screens are a rarity for cinemas. But people will be able to watch movies with 4K resolution on a TV set at home soon. This is what the internet has brought us. The internet used to mean low prices, low costs and a medium viewing experience. In the future, low prices and low costs will continue, but the viewing experience will be greatly improved, especially when larger screens are becoming more and more available."
Zhu Huilong, senior vice president of Youku Tudou Corporation, the website of which has one of the largest movie viewing traffic-flows in China, echoes Gao's opinion.
However, Zhu further points out that, with the number of smart phone users continuing to rise, the way of movie ticket purchases will change, as well.
"I think in the coming year, more than 50 percent of movie tickets will be purchased online. About 900-million people in China own mobile phones. And only 300 to 400 million of these are not smart phones. If these phones become smart phones, because they all have purchase functions, the number of online ticket sales will be enormous."
The recent sales blast jointly conducted by mobile application Wechat and the production company responsible for the recently-released 3D reboot of "Godzilla," has exemplified Zhu's predictions. Two-million film coupons, each worth 19 to 199 yuan, were quickly snapped up by Wechat users within just one hour after they were available on the mobile messaging platform.
Aside from changing the way movies are watched and theater tickets are purchased, the internet has influenced cinema goers' choices of which movie to attend, as well.
An Xiaofen, a producer and distributor of hit movies like the "Tiny Times" and "Ip Man" film franchises, says the internet is offering audiences more information on a movie than traditional posters can provide.
"The most important things that influence whether or not a person will go see a film is a movie's trailer, highlights behind the scenes and so on. Online video websites have a large number of users. The more often we release trailers and things like that on these websites, the larger the audience we can attract."
The larger population of video website users than cinema goers has made An Xiaofen invest heavily on releasing the trailers of each Tiny Times movie online before the movie's debut. Within 24 hours, about 30 million people clicked and watched the trailer. An's adoption of video websites eventually brought in a box office of 800 million yuan for the 1st and 2nd installment of Tiny Times.
Gao Fei says the internet has made the promotion period of movies much longer.
"The way that we cooperate with movie producing companies has actually advanced the movie promotion stage. In the past, we usually promote the movie after it is released in cinemas. Now, we let the audiences know about the movie as early as possible and keep them updated about the development all the time."
For producers like An Xiaofen, with all the advantages the internet provides, an ideal way of making profit in the future looks something like this:
"All video websites will be able to get intellectual property rights of a movie for free. But audiences will pay every time they watch the movie on these websites. Because the number of web users is huge, even though the intellectual property is free, the profit will still be impressive."
Despite the transformation brought on by the internet, An, however, says the quality of a movie's content will ultimately dictate whether a production is a box office smash, or a dud.
With that, we've come to the end of this edition of "In the Spotlight." We hope you've enjoyed the show.
If you have any comments or suggestions, you can email us at Spotlight@cri.com.cn. You can also log on to our website at www.newsplusradio.cn to find more about today's topics or catch up on any of our previous editions.
I'm Li Ningjing and thank you for listening. Please tune in at the same time next week. Bye-bye.


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