Going simply by the awards handed out, the 25th Shanghai International Film Festival delivered on its promise to celebrate the emerging stars of both Asian and Chinese cinema.
There were Golden Goblet wins for established markets Japan and China, and those less known, including Uzbekistan. And there were some scene-stealing emotions shared up on stage at the Shanghai Grand Theater, including the moments when two of China’s biggest stars, Hu Ge and Da Peng, were jointly awarded the festival’s best actor prize and then shared memories of their long-lasting friendship.
Japanese director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri was certainly swept up by the occasion, as China’s major festival event marked a return to normalcy — and a return of international guests — after the travel restrictions and assorted uncertainties of the global pandemic.
Kumakiri’s Yoko picked up the festival’s best feature film, best actress and best screenplay awards in the Golden Globlet’s main competition on Saturday night. The jury applauded a “special film” that tells the story of a middle-aged woman (played by past Oscar-nominee Rinko Kikuchi, of Babel fame) whose father’s death forces her to interact with people, following two decades of isolation from society.
“Kikuchi and I have been thinking about working together for about 20 years,” said Kumakiri. “Today, the wish comes true, and we are standing here right now. It’s so unreal — as if we’re in a dream.”
Overall, SIFF selected 53 films from across the globe to contest its five main Golden Goblet sections — the main competition, Asian new talent, documentary, animation and short film categories — and by the time the curtain came down Sunday there had been more than 450 films screened across the festival’s 10-day run. The festival also saw crowds return — there were apparently more than 300,000 tickets bought within an hour of sales coming online — and fans flocked to catch a glimpse of international A-listers including Michelle Yeoh, Jason Stratham, Chow Yun-fat and Zhang Ziyi.
SIFF also hosted a Sci-Fi Film Week, looking to tap into the rise of a genre that, despite being a relatively new phenomenon in China, had this year seen its most successful franchise climb to more than $1.3 billion in total ticket sales after the release of The Wandering Earth 2 in January. There were seminars on such topics as “Sci-Fi: An All-humanity Perspective and Chinese Stories,” and festival goers were left to ponder the possibilities ahead as seminar speakers seemed to share the prediction that “sci-fi with Chinese characteristics” would take the genre towards a brave new world of cinema.