A tale of two festivals
The 1st Beijing International Film Festival (北京國際電影季, 23-28 April) closes tonight at the Beijing Olympic Centre. It began five days ago at a red-carpet ceremony that borrowed imagery, music and lyrics from the city’s 2008 Olympics.
The first edition has featured problems that have beset ambitious new festivals throughout Asia in the past decade, notably in Hanoi and Bangkok. There is a lack of information in either English or Chinese, events have been cancelled or rescheduled at the last minute, catalogues have been published late if at all, and there is still no printed festival schedule.
While it is shocking that an event celebrating film culture has cut out the sapphic sex in Black Swan, it should be remembered that Busan faced similar problems at its first edition when David Cronenberg’s Crash was shown in a severely edited form. But there are not many signs that the Beijing festival is sincerely celebrating film culture, something that Busan got right in its first year.
It would be wrong to assume that the Beijing festival is targeted at film lovers. Few of the VIP guests who were flown in this week would have attended a single movie during their time in China’s capital. There was no opening film, or even an opening party; VIP guests were abandoned in the lobby of their hotel after the self-congratulatory opening ceremony.
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