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Beyond awards

By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

09:10, June 19, 2012

Top: Feng Xiaogang (left) and John Woo at a master class during the 14th Shanghai International Film Festival in 2011. Above: Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and his wife Wendi Deng attend the 14th SIFF in 2011. Photos provided to China Daily

The biggest bash for filmmakers and film lovers in China yields golden nuggets of insight, a treasure trove of cinematic gold and a Golden Goblet for the best picture.

The image is eye-catching: a three-legged golden goblet sits in the center. The backdrop is a burning sun - or it could be a red balloon - that rises inexorably, leaving an airy trail in its wake.

This is the poster for the 15th Shanghai International Film Festival, or SIFF for short. As red is the designated color for so many things chinoiserie, its symbolism is clear: Chinese cinema is emerging as a force to be reckoned with.

Of course, SIFF, opening on Saturday and running through June 24, is not just about Chinese movies. As the only A-list film festival in China, it attracts 1,643 movies from 106 countries, out of which, 300-some will be screened and 17 will run for the Golden Goblet Award.

The eclectic bunch includes two Chinese entries, one of which is Detective Hunter Zhang. I've got to see it because it stars someone I personally know. Zhang Lixian is a publisher of the mook (magazine-style book) called Duku. The guy is funny, and I've seen him hosting events. But getting the title role for the new work by a known director? Curiosity is killing me.

Of the five nominees I have seen, four happen to be female directors. And it shows. For Chrysalis, by Spain's Paula Ortiz, and Stars Above, by Finland's Saara Fintell, the feminine touch is so exquisite, the images - let alone the stories - haunt you long after you leave the cinema. Canada's For the Love of God and Ukraine's House with a Turret may be more hard-edged, but they still reveal a sensitivity that is at once refreshing and reassuring.

However, it is difficult to predict the winner as few have seen all nominated films. Many who swarm to Shanghai during the nine days of movie jamboree prefer the tried and true - masterpieces from earlier ages that have never graced the Chinese screen.

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