Chinese taking a leading role on film juries

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 May, 2007, 12:00am

The strong Chinese presence on the juries at this year's Cannes Film Festival is a sign of how Chinese perspectives are seen as vital components in the evaluation of international cinema, says mainland filmmaker Jia Zhangke .

With this year's festival drawing to a close today, and the celebrities fleeing the city for the next media hotspot, the centre of attention has shifted to the juries. Members have been in the limelight by announcing the results of side competitions.

While Hong Kong-born actress Maggie Cheung Man-yuk has more work to do - her job as a jury member for the festival's main competition will end this evening, when the announcement for this year's Palme d'Or recipient is made at the Grand Theatre Lumiere - Jia has finished his duties on Friday as he presided over the awards for the Cinefondation short-film competition.

'This proves that Chinese cinema is securing a high level of recognition from around the world,' said Jia, referring to the increasing number of Chinese filmmakers recruited as judges at international film festivals. 'This also proves that they hope to hear views from China - and this in itself is also very important in the development of our own culture.'

Mainland film critic Qin Bian was also a judge at Cannes this year, serving alongside award-winning directors Pascale Ferran and Cristi Puiu and Italian actor Jasmine Trinca in the Un Certain Regard side competition.

Last year, there were two Chinese jurors at Cannes. Wong Kar-wai - whose film My Blueberry Nights opened this year's festival - was jury president for the main competition. Mainland actress Zhang Ziyi was also on the board.

The emergence of Chinese filmmakers as arbitrators of taste at film festivals will continue, with director Zhang Yimou heading the jury of the Venice Film Festival, which runs from August 29 to September 8. Jia's Still Life, a slow-moving paean to communities torn apart by the Three Gorges project, won that festival's top award last year.

Zhang's fellow 'Fifth Generation' director, Chen Kaige will preside over the Shanghai International Film Festival's jury next month.

Jia - who made his name by securing awards at international film festivals in Hong Kong and Pusan with feature films that had not been approved by mainland censors - said the pressure of his job as a juror had grown this year.

'A lot of young filmmakers' futures were at stake here,' he said of the Cinefondation competition, designed for aspiring first-time filmmakers.

'I hope I didn't miss a rising great director here.'

Beijing Film Academy student Chen Tao won second prize with Way Out. Top garlands went to Argentinean student Gonzalo Tobal.

Chen's success will probably outshine the veteran Wong Kar-wai. Although a Cannes darling, Wong's entry this year - a road movie filled with his slow motion, voice-over-laden trademarks, but set in the US and starring Norah Jones and Jude Law - received lukewarm reviews.

The films that remain contenders for the Palme d'Or are Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men and Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, with American artist-filmmaker Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly emerging as a late challenger.