The biennial NZ Film Festival in China will kick off next month, screening within the Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF) and delivering a dozen titles evenly split between shorts and features. After Beijing, the NZ festival will screen in its own right in Shanghai before concluding its run in the south-western city of Guilin. Pacific Arts & Culture’s Jim He, who also organises the biennial China Film Festival in NZ (which last played here late in 2013), has again handled much of the legwork.
Films selected for Chinese film festivals are exempt from China’s quota on foreign titles (although not from censorship). The Beijing IFF claims over 1100 international titles will screen during this year’s 16 -24 April edition.
The NZ shorts making the cut include Matthew Saville’s Hitch Hike, Lauren Jackson’s I’m Going to Mum’s and Thomas Robins’ The Present.
The six NZ features playing will be Alex Galvin’s Eternity, Curtis Vowell’s Fantail, Toa Fraser’s Giselle, Te Arepa Kahi’s Mt Zion, Geoff Murphy’s UTU Redux and Daniel Joseph Borgman’s The Weight of Elephants.
Eternity and Giselle both have Chinese connections. Eternity was part-shot in Hong Kong, did some of its sound post at Shaw Studios and played as an official selection in the Shanghai IFF last June; Giselle co-starred Chinese dancer Qi Huan and was part-shot in Shanghai.
Michael Stephens, a co-producer on Eternity and longtime advocate for greater engagement between NZ and Asian screen industries, said, “Around 100,000 people should attend screenings of the 7th New Zealand Film Festival in China in each city.”
If those numbers are remotely accurate it will mean that, come June, all titles except Mt Zion will have been seen by more people in China than in NZ. Stephens also observed that China is one of NZ’s largest potential markets for its screen product. On average each person in China will sees over 10 theatrical screenings each year (well above NZ’s per capita average of around three trips to a cinema).