Vignettes from the Shanghai International Film Festival


SHANGHAI — The opening-night screening at a major film festival is usually a hot ticket.

Not so in China — at least not for the VIPs visiting from around the world, most of whom fled after the government officials’ speeches and lifetime achievement awards at the start of the 15th Shanghai International Film Festival on June 16. They ducked out before director Wuershan’s action fantasy “Painted Skin II: The Resurrection” got a chance to prove itself.

As the international film industry who’s who headed for the exits at the Shanghai Grand Theater, Chinese students with nosebleed seats sneaked down into the orchestra to mingle. The white-haired festival jury president,Jean-Jacques Annaud, posed in black tie for a snapshot with a tousle-haired teen in neon green pants. The French director then stood for a second shot with the teen’s girlfriend, clad in denim shorts, towering wedge heels and a teensy top.


Annaud, visiting Shanghai for the first time, hopes to attract young Chinese moviegoers to his new film, “Wolf Totem,” now in preproduction with the China Film Group. It’s a late 1960s tale of a Beijing student’s discovery of the wolf spirit of the Inner Mongolian nomads he is sent to live among during the Cultural Revolution.

Photos snapped, Annaud and his young admirers quickly parted. Perhaps time was short or he and fellow jurists such as Hollywood actress Heather Graham were hungry or wanted to be the first to arrive at one of several boozy after-parties sponsored by Cadillac and luxury watchmaker Jaeger LeCoultre.

Two visiting film industry veterans with strong ties to China respectfully refrained from the rush to Champagne, remaining in their seats to watch the “Painted Skin” sequel, Wuershan’s take on what it’s like to battle the wrath of a fox spirit.

One straggler was Terrence Chang, the Los Angeles-based producer of John Woo’s big-budget “Red Cliff” epics, huge hits in East Asia. The other was Isabelle Glachant, the French producer of multiple films by Wang Xiaoshuai.

“Everybody left,” Glachant said the next day. “But it’s great that the kids get to come in and watch. I was surrounded by girls who all loved the lead actor [Chen Kun] and giggled and shrieked, saying, ‘Oh, no! What will happen to him? Will he die? Who will save him?’ It’s important to know what turns these kids on.”

Time out for golf


On the sidelines at the film festival Wednesday, former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (China’s most famous athlete) and Feng Xiaogang (the country’s most bankable movie director) took some time out for golf.

They weren’t on the links but at a news conference at the sleek Langham hotel to announce their participation in the 2012 Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am golf tournament. The event, to be held at the course on the southern island of Hainan in October, has a $1-million purse and good causes attached.

Joining Yao and Feng were film director He Ping, Hong Kong actor Simon Yam, actor-producer-director Eric Tsang and Mission Hills’ chairman and vice chairman — brothers Ken Chu and Tenniel Chu from Hong Kong.

The movie and sports celebrities struck poses with their clubs and then used drivers — yes, drivers — to putt golf balls into a basketball hoop-sized hole cut into the stage floor.

Feng, who has played golf for five years, visibly backed away when asked to demonstrate his form, but he had a few words about the sport’s advantages.

“Golf has changed my life,” said Feng, whose last film, the earthquake disaster flick”Aftershock,” was a hit in China but fizzled in the U.S. “When I’m finished directing, golf is good for my energy and health. It makes you face failure every time, and helps me face challenges.”

Yao, who took up golf two months ago, declined to swing a custom-extended driver for the cameras, looking up at the chandelier overhead with concern.

Tsang, short in stature, was happy to swing for the cameras, smiling and ribbing Yao. “Height is no advantage in golf,” Tsang said to applause from the Chinese press corps.

There was humor in the room, but also a lot of spiel about bringing the sport to the youth of China to get them game-ready for the 2016 Summer Olympics, when golf returns to the rotation of events.

“We need to change the perception that golf is just for the elite,” said He, whose last film work was as an actor in the 2009 movie “The Founding of the Party,” commemorating the ChineseCommunist Party’s90th birthday.

“In China, the government focuses a lot of attention on supporting sports like basketball,” said Tenniel Chu. “Now golf is getting that same attention.”

Feng, who made his name in down-home comedy hits about average Chinese people, is equally beloved these days for his frank public talk about the need for artistic freedom.

Asked by a reporter whether he’d ever seen “Caddyshack,” director Harold Ramis’ 1980 gift to the everyman golfer and a big poke in the eye of the sport’s perceived elitism, Feng said he’d heard of the film starring Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray.

Would he ever want to make a golf movie?

“Yeah,” Feng smiled, “I’d be interested.”

Mistaken identity

Sitting down to a late breakfast in Shanghai’s Crowne Plaza Hotel with her laptop open as the lunch crowd began to filter in, the traveling spouse of a Hollywood executive was approached by an African film producer proffering his business card.

Both worlds away from home, the dapper gentleman in a suit had hoped to interest the elegant, bespectacled lady in five film projects in development he’d brought with him to the festival. To him, she looked the part — and she might lead him to funding, make him a star.

He stood, she did not, but graciously explained that she was a “non-pro,” as she was once described in connection to her husband — formerly with a major studio — by one of the Hollywood trade newspapers.

The American lady, in Shanghai for the first time, accepted the man’s business card but did not offer her own in return, wanting to keep her connections safely obscured.

Gently rebuffed, the man went back to his meal a few tables away, and the American returned to a bit of typing and to pinning down her day’s plans to visit Shanghai art galleries while her husband ran from meeting to meeting, looking for production funding of his own.

Later, back in her room, the American inspected his business card. “Creative Africa,” it said. The telephone number was French. She turned it over to discover, handwritten in pen, the name and contact details of somebody from Iran. Another filmmaker perhaps, one without a business card of his own, also seeking a financial backer, thinking that an African from France was just the ticket.