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Shanghai International Film Festival Figures Talk Post-Pandemic Cinema

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In a post-pandemic world where movie theaters already feel like a remnant of the past, what happens to film festivals?

The Shanghai International Film Festival, or SIFF, at least, looks to be in full swing, selling out 270,000 tickets just five hours after they were released. On opening day, hashtags around the festival’s opening ceremony began to trend on Weibo, shooting past 50,000 related posts; meanwhile, Douyin alone received over 6 million searches for the opening ceremony.

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This year’s festival highlights new opportunities for young directors, via the SIFF Young category and the SIFF 48-Hour Shooting category.

We spoke to some of the festival’s key figures, looking to the future for a post-pandemic film industry.

Han Shuai’s feature debut Summer Blur won the Grand Prix in the Generation Kplus section at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2021. Liang Ming won awards for both acting and directing at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, and serves as a mentor for this year’s 48-hour film competition. Natacha Devillers is a longstanding film producer from France, with over 15 years of experience in China, and is a judge for this year’s festival.

Future Trends in Chinese Film

Han Shuai: I think the Chinese film industry is more diverse than ever. In recent years, hybrid genres with local characteristics have been welcomed by the market, and those works show relatively diverse characteristics.

Audiences are paying more attention to films infused with Chinese design and cultural elements, and their demand for emotional content is becoming more and more intense.

Liang Ming: The next decade is important for the Chinese movie industry. Filmmakers should work hard, and the industry should support work beyond just entertainment and commercial products. Movies are not just commercial products for public entertainment, they’re works of art.

The mainstream market is more inclined towards entertainment, but if people don’t pay attention to the spiritual aspects of movies, being influenced instead by TikTok videos and streaming, then the film industry and the cinema experience itself will be in real danger.

Natacha Devillers: I came to China back in 2005. But today, a lot of young directors have studied overseas. They’re using a much wider variety of cinema language, and they’re mixing different approaches and bringing something new to their films. They’re kind of exploding beyond their limits right now; there are many more styles and stories, so I’m also quite optimistic about the future of Chinese filmmaking.

Do we want Chinese cinema to “go everywhere?” I don’t know. American cinema is like Coca-Cola, it goes everywhere. There’s a big cultural difference between China and the rest of the world. That’s something that should be preserved — you don’t necessarily want to just emulate the US.

Language is a barrier, of course. US movies are played around the world because everybody can understand English, but now more and more people, especially the younger generation, are starting to discover Chinese films.

In France for instance, Chinese cinema is hugely appreciated. Not only by the young generation today, but also by the generation of people who were young in the ’60s and ’70s, when we had a Maoism movement in France.

This audience was always interested in China and Chinese politics, and the country’s working class. Today, those same audiences are fascinated to see the evolution of society in China.

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Cover Image: SIFF

Ambra Schillirò
    Ambra grew up in Catania, Italy. She worked at her first newspaper at 18 years old. She is a member of the Italian Journalist Association, and in 2014 she founded the digital and public relations company Social Cloud.