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    For 2024 Film Festival, Shanghai Puts the Spotlight on Itself

    This year’s edition of the Shanghai International Film Festival is being billed as a celebration of the city’s own culture and revolutionary history.

    The Shanghai International Film Festival — China’s premier film festival — has kicked off on Friday, with this year’s event billed as a celebration of Shanghai’s own culture and revolutionary history.

    The 26th edition of the festival, which runs until June 23, will feature screenings of more than 450 domestic and international movies at theaters scattered across Shanghai and neighboring cities including Hangzhou, Nanjing, and Suzhou.

    Titled “City of Films,” this year’s SIFF is shining a spotlight on Shanghai itself, as China’s biggest metropolis celebrates the 75th anniversary of its liberation during the Chinese Civil War and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

    The festival’s opening ceremony will be held at the Shanghai Grand Theatre on Saturday, followed by the world premiere of “Red Radio Over Shanghai” — a drama directed by Zheng Dasheng and Cui Yi that spotlights Shanghai’s turbulent early 20th-century history.

    Presented by Shanghai Media Group, “Red Radio Over Shanghai” tells the story of the famous Communist revolutionary Li Bai, who spent 12 years as an underground activist in Kuomintang-controlled Shanghai.

    Li played a crucial role in establishing a secret radio communication channel between the city and Yan’an, the Communists’ base in northwest China. But he was arrested by the Kuomintang and secretly executed in 1949 — just days before the city was liberated.

    The festival will also feature a selection of Shanghai-themed films that span the city’s entire post-liberation history, from the 1949 comedy “Crows and Sparrows” to the 2021 romantic comedy “B for Busy.”

    “The Winter of Three Hairs” — the first Chinese mainland film released after the founding of the People’s Republic of China — will also be screened at the festival. Adapted from a classic comic of the same title by cartoonist Zhang Leping, it is about the misfortunes suffered by a brave orphan named Three Hair in Old Shanghai.

    Tapping into China’s current craze for city walks, this year’s SIFF will also include a “Walk With Film” urban tour in which attendees can visit historic cinemas and landmarks across Shanghai and learn more about the city’s heritage.

    Tickets for the festival have been selling at a rapid pace, with more than 200 screenings selling out within 10 minutes of going on sale on June 7, according to the event organizers. The festival has added 12 more screenings on Wednesday — including showings of the popular Japanese anime movie “Paprika” and Hollywood modern classic “Pulp Fiction” — due to audience demand.

    With 2024 also marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between France and China, this year’s SIFF will also include a French Film Week. Screenings span Alain Resnais’ 1959 classic “Hiroshima Mon Amour” to the 2023 legal docudrama “The Goldman Case.”

    The festival will also host the Golden Goblet Awards, which includes five categories: best feature-length film, new Asian talent, best documentary, best animation, and best short film.

    The shortlist for this year’s Golden Goblets includes 50 films from 29 different countries and regions. Of these, 38 will have their world premieres at SIFF, according to the organizers. In total, the festival received more than 3,700 entries from 105 countries and regions.

    Nearly one-third of the 14 finalists for the best feature-length film award are domestic productions, including Guan Hu’s “A Man and a Woman,” “The Hedgehog” by Gu Changwei, “Starfall” by Zhang Dalei, and Wei Shujun’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

    The competition will be judged by a panel of seven film professionals from four different countries, with French director Tran Anh Hung acting as chairman. At a press conference on Friday, Hung said he felt a great sense of responsibility ahead of this year’s event, his second appearance at SIFF.

    “Our jury is very open, and we plan to discuss a lot,” said Hung. “It’s always a great pleasure to discuss movies. I don’t watch movies in my life normally, so a film festival is always a good place for me to watch movies.”

    Sonthar Gyal, a Tibetan filmmaker from Qinghai province, is serving on the panel for the first time this year. “I’m under great pressure … because films with different tastes and styles are gathered here, and we have to choose from more than 3,000 films,” he said. “But we believe we can reach a unanimous decision.”

    As the only female member of the panel, Chinese actress Zhou Xun concurred with Sonthar that judging is ultimately a subjective matter. “It is also a team effort where we discuss each film using our most sincere and genuine feelings with other judges,” she said. “I find this process very interesting, and I’m looking forward to it.”

    The winners of the Golden Goblet Awards will be announced on June 22.

    Additional reporting: Li Dongxu.

    (Header image: Posters for the 26th Shanghai International Film Festival seen at the Shanghai Film Art Center, June 14, 2024. VCG)