Wong takes centre stage on Cannes judging panel

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 May, 2006, 12:00am

Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai, the first Chinese chairman of the Cannes Film Festival jury, greeted the international press for the first time yesterday with his eight jury members.

Sitting at the centre of the panel wearing his signature sunglasses, Wong said being invited to be jury president was not merely a personal honour 'but an honour for the people I work with throughout Asia'. Wong previously won the Best Director award at Cannes for his film Happy Together.

While Lou Ye's Summer Palace is the only Asian entry to compete for the Palme d'Or, the most prestigious prize in the film world, Wong played down talk of a lack of Asian films.

'Don't take it as an indicator of a trend,' said Wong. 'This is like a cycle ... very often the criteria depends on release schedules. I'm not disappointed [by the lack of Asian entries] because a lot of great Asian films will be shown, although Cannes is a great platform.'

The Shaw Brothers' martial arts classic The 14 Amazons has just been invited to be screened as part of the Cannes Classics section tomorrow night.

The film, directed by Cheng Kang, was originally released in 1972 and its screening at Cannes is the world premiere of its digitally restored version. The film will be released in theatres in France next month.

Italian star Monica Bellucci said she was thrilled to be on a jury panel chaired by Wong.

'There are so many important artists from around the world and Wong Kar-wai is magnificent,' she said.

Mainland actress Zhang Ziyi is also sitting on the jury panel with international names like Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth and Helena Bonham Carter.

She said professionalism was all important when it came to judging films, no matter where they came from.

'The festival has been very supportive towards Chinese-language films, helping them gain worldwide attention. But no matter how many Chinese films there are, we just judge them professionally,' Zhang said.

Meanwhile, the entire delegation of Summer Palace has arrived at Cannes despite failing to get approval to be involved in the festival from mainland officials.

A festival spokeswoman said officials were aware of the situation regarding Summer Palace but said it had had no effect on the film's selection.

She said all the screenings, press conferences and premieres were on schedule and the status of Summer Palace as a contender for the top prize remained unchanged.

Before the opening ceremony last night, Korean star Choi Min-sik, star of Cannes award-winning Oldboy, led a protest against the South Korean government's free trade agreement with the US, worrying that it will affect the booming Korean film industry.

The festival, which runs until May 28, opened last night with the much-hyped thriller The Da Vinci Code.