The French artistic delegation, composed of the directors Zabou Breitman (No and Me), Jacques Cluzaud (Oceans), Alix Delaporte (Angèle and Tony), Marc Fitoussi (Copacabana), Alain Gagnol (A Cat in Paris), Hervé Mimran (All That Glitters), the actress Delphine Chuillot (Mozart’s Sister), and the composer Evgueni Galperine (The Big Picture). They were joined by Unifrance President Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre and Frédéric Brillion, a producer with Epithète Films. They all traveled to China to attend the event from April 7 through 11, spending three days together in Beijing before separating to travel to Chengdu and Shenzhen/Canton for two days.
In Beijing, 2,700 movie enthusiasts turned out at the Moma Cinematheque and the Star City Cinema, two theaters operated by the Broadway group, which hosted screenings over the first five days of the event. Members of the delegation, in attendance in the Chinese capital during this period, were honored with screenings held to packed houses and took the opportunity to meet with audiences, often for an hour at a time. The Panorama’s opening night, complete with a red carpet, high-profile guests, fans and journalists, was held at the Sanlitun Village, a neighborhood that is home to many expatriates as well as wealthy young Chinese people and art and fashion enthusiasts. Following a cocktail party held at The Orange reception and exhibition hall, guests were treated to a screening of Potiche by François Ozon, which made a strong impression on audiences and no doubt encouraged the film’s buyer Sen Lys to launch its theatrical release.
Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Frédéric Brillon, and Xavier Lardoux took advantage of their stay in Beijing to meet with state officials and Chinese movie professionals, with the aim of requesting an increase in the current quotas for French films in China in the light of the country’s currently booming exhibition sector. This request also relates to the implementation of a co-production agreement signed between France and China, as well as reflecting a desire to raise awareness among Chinese distributors and television networks of the potential for French films in theaters and broadcast on television. A meeting with Yuku, China’s leading VOD platform (35 million viewers per day) explored the possibility of forming a partnership for the 2nd Online French Film Festival, to be held in January 2012.
In addition to screenings of their films, all of the French artists also met with Chinese students at master class events. Zabou Breitman received a warm welcome at Beijing’s High School 81, where 150 fifteen-year-old students took part in discussions about cultural difference and their experiences of adolescence, which are both very different but nonetheless similar to experiences depicted in the film No and Me. Alain Gagnol gave a lesson in animated filmmaking based on his film A Cat in Paris, while Jacques Cluzaud tried his hand at a lesson in oceanography with students from Canton University, who were fascinated by the diverse species of fish depicted in Oceans.
All up, the films presented were seen by close to 1,300 students in Beijing and Canton during these "Cinema Lessons" given by members of the French delegation.
In Shenzhen, 3,500 spectators came out to sample the films presented between April 11 and 16. Screened as festival opener, Copacabana was a particular hit with local audiences.
Accompanying the ten feature films showcased at the event was a selection of eleven short films divided into two programs, which also played to packed theaters. These screenings inspired spectators to reflect on this very particular movie-making format, which has enjoyed increasing popularity over the past four years. As is often the case for foreign audiences, questions from spectators focused on French support mechanisms for the production, direction, and distribution of short films. One new development this year was that many people commented on the subjects explored in fiction films in particular. Certain spectators even dared to note that, all things considered, short films and feature films were not as different as one may imagine, apart from their obvious difference in length.
But it was at Jinan University in Canton that, in front of an audience of 150 students, we were able to understand the importance of the French short film industry's role as a reference point abroad and a source of inspiration, for teachers as well, in local efforts to develop an art form that, while not unheard of, is not by no means an active industry in China outside the film school environment. Four short films presented at the Panorama event are currently being screened as part of the 2nd China International (KingBonn) New Media Shorts Award in Shenzhen.
The French Film Panorama in China is far from over, with films continuing to be screened in cinemas in Hangzhou, after which they will return to Beijing for presentation at the French Institute over a period of two weeks.