Chinese director Jia Zhangke establishes film festival on his home turf

World Today

The ancient Chinese town of Pingyao is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. It has a well-preserved history dating back thousands of years. Now, an international film festival is breathing new life into the town.

CGTN’s Song Yaotian was there for the opening.

Jia Zhangke, who created a slew of films set in his home turf of Shanxi Province, has given back by establishing a film festival there.

With superstar Fan Bingbing as the event’s image ambassador and director Feng Xiaogang as its art advisor, art house films are now enjoying increased exposure among the general public.

Festival founder Jia said his goal was to launch a professional film festival. He, along with art director Marco Muller—who used to be the artistic director of the Venice Film Festival—led a jury of respected filmmakers from China, Japan, Italy, Russia, and France. They carefully selected films to be featured in the festival.

One of the festival’s missions is to promote young directors. The other is to highlight non-western films, meaning those made in central Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

The “Crouching Tiger” category is dedicated to the debut or second piece of work by young directors. In the running this year are Chinese director Zhao Ting’s debut work “The Rider”, Chinese director Wang Feifei’s “From Where We’ve Fallen”, and four other films from Portugal, France, Kyrgyzstan and Argentina.

The other categories include the “Hidden Dragon” group, which focuses on genre films; the “Best of Fest”, which screens winning films from the world’s major film festivals of the year; the “New Generation China” category, which also targets rookie filmmakers; and finally, the “Retrospective, Tributes” segment, which screens ten works by French film master Jean-Pierre Grumbach and two others by John Woo and Johnnie To, respectively.

“Where Has Time Gone”, composed of short films by five BRICS countries, is also being shown. The China part is directed by Jia Zhangke himself and was shot in Pingyao.

It’s a real feast for film buffs who love art house films. The venue is an abandoned factory, giving the event a healthy dose of character and reality—qualities that are featured in Jia’s films.