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Shanghai gives gongs to Gong

The Shanghai International Film Festival has announced actress Gong Li as the chair of the 2014 jury, four years after she played the lead in the Mikael Hafstrom feature named for the city.

Gong will be the first woman to lead Shanghai’s Golden Goblet jury. She’s previously been a jury member at Cannes, led the juries at Berlin and Venice, and remains the only Chinese actor to appear in films that have won the top prize at those three festivals.

Recently, Gong trod the red carpet at the Beijing Festival in support of Zhang Yimou’s Coming Home – Gong’s first big screen outing since the 2011 Chinese remake of rom-com What Women Want. Gong’s first big screen appearance, while still studying, was also in a Zhang Yimou title, Red Sorghum, which won the Berlinale’s Golden Bear.

Including Coming Home, which plays Cannes later this month, Gong has appeared in ten of Zhang’s films. The best-known outside China is Curse of the Golden Flower, although the actress is probably more familiar to western audiences for roles in Rob Marshall’s Memoirs of a Geisha and Michael Mann’s Miami Vice.

Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat

Curse of the Golden Floewr: Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat discuss the merits of silly hats

Accepting the position of jury head, Gong called Shanghai “the largest and most authoritative film extravaganza in China”.

The festival itself made an announcement explaining the selection process, naming the c100 people responsible for the festival’s selections, and announcing a plan to reward selectors whose picks are awarded at Shanghai or other international festivals, and to remove those selectors who underperform.

Shanghai gets offered fewer Chinese premieres each year, as Beijing muscles in on its act. It also gets few premieres of major international features. Increasingly, selectors are considering titles that have played elsewhere. The risk of assessing selectors on the success of such titles is that Shanghai’s selections become more generic.

Although the festival hasn’t yet announced its line-ups, it has committed to several regular strands, including Reproduced Classics. The digitally restored titles are one way in which festival programming is becoming more generic.

Shanghai, like many other festivals, creates a programme section from the most recent crop of restorations. This year’s “Reproduced Classics” includes Taxi Driver, The Godfather Part II, Philadelphia and Patrice Chereau’s stunning 1994 La Reine Margot.

The line-up is conspicuously Western, something SIFF has been trying to change through a three-year restoration programme in conjunction with sponsor Jaeger-LeCoultre. Xie Jin’s restored Stage Sisters (1965) will screen in this year’s festival, with John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow a really early announcement for 2015.

The 17th Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) runs 14 – 22 June.