Published: 17:02, April 19, 2024 | Updated: 18:02, April 19, 2024
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Beijing film festival opens with a sea of stars
By Xu Fan
Members of the cast of Article 20 Liu Yaowen (left), Ma Li (second from left) and Lei Jiayin (right) pose for a photo with director of the film Zhang Yimou (second from right) on April 18, 2024 on the red carpet of the 14th Beijing International Film Festival. The annual event will unveil 10 awards during its closing ceremony on April 26. (JIANG DONG / CHINA DAILY)

The 14th Beijing International Film Festival kicked off in the Chinese capital's northern outskirts on Thursday, drawing more than 370 stars and filmmakers from home and abroad to share their insights into new movies and the prospects for China's film industry.

With a record submission of over 1,500 films from 118 countries and regions competing for the festival's top honor, the Tiantan Awards, the annual festival will unveil the 10 awards selected from 15 nominated films during its closing ceremony on April 26.

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David White, an Australian sound designer who serves as a jury member for the Tiantan Awards, said he has visited the Chinese capital multiple times since the late 1980s, and has paid attention to the rapid recovery of China's film industry after the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think the Chinese film industry is the most interesting in the world at the moment and has the most potential for growth in the next five-year period," he said, adding that he has been looking forward to cooperating with more Chinese filmmakers since China and Australia signed a film coproduction agreement several years ago.

The crew members of more than 70 films — most of them upcoming or still in production — walked the red carpet, sharing their passion for cinema or insights into filmmaking accumulated over the years.

Iconic Hong Kong director Peter Chan disclosed that he is working on his latest project, She's Got No Name, a story that captivated him eight years ago.

Chan said his impetus for the tale, which is based on a 1945 case of a woman who murdered her husband due to domestic violence, was to step out of his comfort zone and explore a new domain. He suggested that filmmakers should maintain a questioning attitude and relate to their projects while creating new films.

Members of 14th Tiantan Award jury attend the opening of the 14th Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF) in Beijing, capital of China, April 18, 2024. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski, who is also the jury president for the film festival's Forward Future section — dedicated to honoring emerging talent — said the shortlisted movies he has viewed so far showcase fresh cinematic approaches, adding that he wishes to learn from the young generation.

A-list actor Hu Ge, whose new movie Gold or Shit was nominated for the festival's top honor, said that as an actor, it is very challenging to switch between different stories and roles in a comparatively short period of time, but the most important thing is to trust the director and screenwriter.

Model-actress Lin Chi-ling, who is from Taiwan, recalled that she entered the Chinese film industry during its golden era, in director John Woo's war epic Red Cliff. She added that she feels good returning to the festival to reunite with old friends.

Li Shaohong, director of The Dream of the Red Chamber, accompanied by 13 actresses and an actor — the largest ensemble among all the film crews — disclosed that the film, adapted from one of the country's most renowned ancient novels, was completed six years ago. At that time, for most of the actors, it was their first role in a film, and they were accompanied by their parents during the work, she added.

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Kent Tong, a veteran Hong Kong actor, said it felt like a magical moment when he heard that a restored and reedited 4K version of his 1982 romance, Nomad, would be screened during the film festival, which made him feel like he was traveling back in time.

Award-winning director Gu Xiaogang's Dwelling by the West Lake, depicting a young man's endeavor to save his mother from a pyramid scheme, was selected as the festival's opening film. Actor Wu Lei, who stars in the movie, said he was deeply drawn to the film's themes of love and redemption.

As one of the top highlights, more than 240 movies have been scheduled for around 750 screenings in 27 cinemas across Beijing, neighboring Tianjin and Hebei province.