Gong Li confirmed as Shanghai Film Festival jury president


The organizers of the 17th edition of the Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF), Asia’s by far largest movie event, have confirmed that internationally renowned Chinese actress Gong Li will serve as jury president, heading the committee that selects the winner of the coveted “Golden Goblet Award” from films entered in competition. She is the first woman to ever head the Golden Goblet jury. Previous jury presidents have included Tom Hooper, Luc Besson, Danny Boyle, Barry Levinson, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Wong Kar-Wai, John Woo and Chen Kaige.

“By promoting the cultural industry of filmmaking, the Shanghai International Film Festival has played an increasingly important role in showcasing Chinese culture [to the world],” the actress stated. “I feel incredibly honored to be able to serve as president of the jury for the Golden Goblet Award and work alongside top filmmakers from around the world to discover outstanding new [films] that have deep human resonance. [The jury’s] task is to single out the best work from a pool of many great films. Being president of the jury is a big responsibility, and our jury will operate on the principle of fair competition. I will endeavor to lead the entire jury to work seriously and tirelessly to accomplish this task.”

This is not the first time Gong has served in an official capacity at a film festival. In 1997, she was a jury member at the 50th Cannes Film Festival. At the 50th Berlin International Film Festival (2000), the 59th Venice International Film Festival (2002), and the 16th Tokyo International Film Festival (2003), she served as head of the jury.

This year’s SIFF runs June 14-22. Gong Li and the other six jury members are scheduled to make their first public appearance during the festival’s red carpet opening ceremony on June 14 at the posh Shanghai Grand Theatre. Interested parties can consult the official website, www.siff.com/InformationEn/Index.aspx, for festival updates and movie programs.

Rose Kuo Named CEO of Qingdao IFF
When China’s Dalian Wanda Group last September conducted the groundbreaking ceremony for its lavish, multi-billion-dollar Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis, a vast complex of production studios, stages and entertainment facilities in the southeastern port city of Qingdao scheduled to be fully operational by June 2017, the company also announced its creation of yet another film festival for the region. The first edition of the Qingdao International Film Festival originally was to be held in the autumn of 2016, and ahead of the production complex’s official opening. However, Dalian Wanda Group seemed unable to find a suitable festival director despite rumors circulating on social media (and causing quite a stir) that the position would be tied in with an extraordinarily generous salary of RMB 4 million (approx. $650,000) per annum.

The scouting efforts finally succeeded in mid-May 2014 when the group confirmed its appointment of Rose Kuo as the nascent film festival’s CEO. Kuo previously held positions as executive director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and artistic director of the AFI Fest. After securing Kuo’s involvement, the Qingdao IFF is now scheduled to kick off in the autumn of 2017, a whole year later than originally planned.

In a related development, Dalian Wanda Group also appointed Stephen Mensch as CEO of the Qingdao Oriental Movie Industrial Park, on whose grounds the Oriental Movie Metropolis complex is currently being constructed. Mensch previously was director of strategic production partnerships and studio operations at Turner Broadcasting.

Movie Highlights Taiwan’s Social Injustices

In Taiwan (officially: Republic of China), social injustice and political dissent have long been neglected as the subject of movies. All too critical voices are not particularly encouraged by a government that—despite increasing democratic reforms in recent years—has its origins in the nationalistic Kuomintang Party that lost Mainland China’s Civil War to the Communists in 1949 and fled to the island of Taiwan (formerly Formosa), where it established a new nation that to this day is not recognized by the People’s Republic.

But the recent social drama The Rice Bomber has courageously taken up a hot iron with its depiction of the plight of local farmers in the wake of Taiwan joining the WTO. Directed by Cho Li and produced by Lee Lieh and Yeh Yufeng, the movie tells the story of young rice farmer Yang Ru-men, who in 2003 challenged the state’s authority by carrying out a series of 17 bombings across the country in protest of the government’s neglect of its grassroots people. While the homemade bombs didn’t cause any casualties and only very little damage to property, they all carried stickers outlining Yang’s two main predicaments: “Firstly, the government should not approve rice imports [from abroad]; secondly, the government should take care of its people.” Yang eventually was arrested and sentenced to a lengthy prison term, but has since been released and today is dedicated to developing Taiwan’s agricultural sector.

Director Cho Li said she decided to make the movie because she found it sad how Yang’s well-intentioned petitions on behalf of his fellow farmers always fell on deaf ears with the authorities, which eventually compelled him to take drastic actions as a last, desperate resort. While Yang was not involved in the making of the film, he attended its premiere and seemed content with its social message. “I hope the audience can see what director Cho Li and I tried to express. It is not about Yang Ru-men, it is not about the ‘rice bomber.’ But it’s all about Taiwan’s agriculture, its lovely farmers and people who keep the beauty of this land to their heart,” he said. The Rice Farmer debuted on April 4, 2014, in Taipei, but has yet to be released outside Taiwan.   
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