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The Franco-Chinese cultural exchange project kicks off in Beijing

(Global Times)

09:25, April 12, 2013

Over its eight years, the Croisements Festival has become the biggest and most influential French cultural festival in China. It attracted more than 500,000 spectators across China in 2011. This year, the festival returns with a larger scope, more exciting programs and workshops aimed at attracting a wider Chinese audience.

The Franco-Chinese cultural exchange project, hosted by the French Embassy in China, started Wednesday and runs through July 3 this year, encompassing 77 events in 23 Chinese cities. The festival will also stop by smaller Chinese cities such as Wuzhen in eastern Zhejiang Province and Yinchuan in northwestern China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region for the first time in order to include more people.

"The Chinese and French peoples share a lot in common when it comes to culture and life. They have the same passion regarding art and it is very important to introduce French culture to China," said French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud at the press conference at the French Embassy on Wednesday. Annaud, one of the festival's two ambassadors, is best known for his romance The Lover (1991) and is currently in China filming Wolf Totem, an adaptation from the namesake Chinese novel.

In three months' time, the festival will bring a variety of art forms and avant-garde artists and performances, including contemporary dance, modern circus and street art, theater, exhibition and modern and classical music, displaying the dynamic and creative scene in French art, music and literature.

In order to facilitate cooperation between Chinese and French artists, the festival continues to fund the collaboration between the Paris Opera Ballet and China's Central Ballet Troupe, and this year French choreographer Bertrand d'At will present his unique direction to Beijing in June.

Of all the musical events, Chinese composer and festival ambassador Chen Qigang says the must-see event will be Music Day on June 21. Borrowed from the popular French World Music Day, on which everyone is free to play music on the streets, Music Day in Beijing will have 33 free concerts in 15 locations around Beijing at bar areas in Gulou and Sanlitun.

The French government continues to fund the festival as a way to demonstrate France's soft power against the sluggish economy in Europe. Yet fundraising remains the major obstacle in putting the three-month-long festival, said the French Ambassador to China, Sylvie Bermann. The French government allocates funds for part of the festival, but a large portion comes from sponsors.

"We are happy to know that more and more French companies are playing a more important role in the festival," she said.

Despite the fanfare the festival creates each year and the influx of French artists, the festival still goes unnoticed by many Chinese and has becoming less appealing to some participants.

After eight years, the festival doesn't seem fresh, new and exciting. French movies, both familiar and appealing to Chinese audiences, have the biggest chance of attracting a large audience, but the organizers aren't promoting the movie section of the festival as much as they used to since the movie screening is being managed by another PR company.

Years past featured famed French actors such as Jean Reno and Juliette Binoche, but this year the glitz has faded and few well-known figures are on the bill.

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