Chinese take in world’s first 'Transformers 5' screening

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Asia / Pacific Roundabout

While the fifth installment of the Michael Bay-directed Transformers franchise was officially released in the U.S. on June 21 and in China on June 23, Chinese movie fans were treated to the world’s very first screening of Transformers: The Last Knight on June 13. The IMAX screening took place just prior to the blockbuster franchise’s tenth-anniversary celebration held in the southern city of Guangzhou. After the screening, Bay disclosed to the thrilled audience that he had finished editing the film only two days earlier and that they had just been the very first people in the world to see it.

Guangzhou was apparently chosen as the venue for the anniversary celebration over a location in the U.S. because the franchise enjoys an enormous fan base in China, now the world’s second-largest film market. The first four Transformers films were tremendously successful at the local box office, earning more than CNY3.8 billion ($660 mil.) in ticket sales. The last installment alone, Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), raked in about half of that gross, or CNY1.97 billion, which at the time set a new box-office record in China.

During the Guangzhou event, which attracted over 7,000 fans and invited guests, Bay asserted adamantly that the fifth installment would be his final Transformers film, a promise he had already made—and broken—after Age of Extinction. For the Guangzhou celebration, the director was accompanied by actor Josh Duhamel and actresses Laura Haddock and Isabela Moner, all three of whom appear in The Last Knight.

Thai Man Hosts Movie Night for the Dead

FJI usually sticks to hard facts and eschews reporting on gossip and superstitious hocus-pocus, but we really couldn’t resist this one: A man in Thailand’s eastern city of Chonburi on the night of June 4 transformed a local cemetery into a makeshift outdoor cinema to entertain the dead. Prawet Limchareon, 37, reasoned that “just like people, ghosts want to watch movies too.” The Chinese cemetery where the eerie event took place contains well over 800 corpses, many of them unidentified traffic accident and murder victims occupying anonymous graves. Prawet, who is a paramedic, told the press: “Whenever I drive past this place, a strange feeling grips hold of me.”

Thai people are generally extremely superstitious and harbor an inherent fear of the spirits of the deceased, whom they feel they must appease whenever possible. Prawet consulted with a friend who agreed that hosting a movie night for the dead was a good deed that would earn them both religious merits. (The majority of Thais are Theravada-Buddhists.) The paramedic scrambled together THB6,000 ($180) to rent the screening equipment from a shop in town. Upon learning of Prawet’s plan, the shopkeeper didn’t raise as much as an eyebrow and instead let the paramedic have the equipment for only THB4,000.

Since the venue was a Chinese cemetery, the movie night appropriately kicked off with a Chinese opera followed by two cheesy action films. Prawet and his friend invited four paramedic colleagues to the screening and the small group were soon joined by three construction workers from the area. Meanwhile, there reportedly were no complaints about the nonexistent seating, miserable audio quality and lack of popcorn and sodas from the ghostly audience.

Shanghai Fest Teams with Venice Asia-Pacific Unit

Increasingly transforming into one of Asia’s most prestigious film events, the Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) raised its curtains on June 17 for the 20th time. As usual, the red-carpet show and opening ceremony were graced with a host of local and international movie celebrities. Among them were French stars Julie Delpy and Jean Reno, Japanese actress Aya Ueto, Chinese actresses Liu Yifei and Charlene Choi, and Taiwan’s teenage idol Tony Yeung, just to name a few. But SIFF also had a surprise in store for film fans and attending press alike: The festival this year welcomed for the first time the Venice International Film Festival’s Asia-Pacific Film Art Unit into its competition structure. The unit has already started accepting and evaluating films from over 30 Asia-Pacific countries and regions that have been shot between August 1, 2016, and August 15 this year, and they can compete for a total of ten awards. The integration of the unit is to become a permanent SIFF feature, or at least for the next few years.

The Shanghai Film Art Academy, which hosts SIFF, in September last year signed a five-year cooperation agreement with the Venice Film Festival for hosting its Asia-Pacific Film Art Unit. “The unit will [within SIFF] be a platform for the exchange of China-European film cultures, the transaction of film products and the fostering of young film talent in the Asia-Pacific region,” said the president of the Shanghai Film Art Academy, Jiang Bo.

This year’s SIFF drew to a much-anticipated conclusion on June 26, when the coveted Golden Goblet awards were presented to their respective winners during a glamorous closing ceremony.

For inquiries and feedback, contact Thomas Schmid at thomas.schmid@filmjournal.com.