China's stars come out at film fest

Updated: 2016-04-19 11:26

By May Zuou in Houston(China Daily)

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For 10 days starting April 8, Houston had more than 100 luminaries from the Chinese film industry - producers, investors, playwrights, directors and actors - come to visit for the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival 2016.

There were opening and closing ceremonies, receptions and smaller gatherings. On most occasions, the red carpet was laid out, not only for the stars and VIPS, but also for the regular audience members, to walk on.

Many movie fans from the local Chinese communities dressed up elaborately to attend events, walk the red carpet and pose in front of the festival's photo backdrop - privileges often reserved for stars only.

The glamorous and festive mood wasn't lost on Panorama China, the component of the festival that featured 20 Chinese films and ended with an awards ceremony held at Houston's old Majestic Theatre on Sunday night.

Panorama China opened with the screening of a biopic about late leader Deng Xiaoping - The Compact Density of Stone - and closed with the commercial feature Chronicles of Ghostly Tribe. The rest were independent films, several of which featured Chinese minorities and children. Of the 20 Chinese films, 19 won an award of one kind or another.

The festival seems to be catching on. According to Ray Jiang, chairman of Panorama China, the attendance went up dramatically compared to last year, when only five Chinese films were shown.

"Last year the seats were more empty than filled," Jiang said. "This year we've had two-to-three thousand viewers for Chinese films in total by rough estimate."

Lu Chuan, director of Chronicles of Ghostly Tribe, won the award for Best Director. Lu, who has focused on making artistic films in the past, said this was his first attempt at a commercial film. While some Hollywood "borrowing" was evident in the film, the story was well-developed, critics said, and the film was well received and praised for its epic feel.

"Commercial films are now the mainstream in the Chinese film industry. I wanted to showcase this film at this festival to reflect that reality," said Lu, adding that he plans to develop Ghostly Tribe into a franchise like Indiana Jones or Star Wars.

At Sunday's ceremony, actor Lu Qi, who played Deng Xiaoping in The Compact Density of Stone, won a career achievement award. Lisa Lu, who played a minor role in Grand Song, a well-received film featuring the Kamese songs of China's Kam ethnicity, took home a lifetime achievement award.

On accepting the award for Best Actor for his performance in A Class of One, Sun Haiying sang a tune winning applause from the audience.

Many attended the festival seeking opportunities. Coddy Byars, an actor and model based in Dallas, was at the Panorama China award ceremony.

"I would certainly like to work with China in the film industry," Byars said. "I have attended the festival in the past. This year China got involved on such a large scale, we saw many new things coming out."

Of the Chinese films he saw, his favorite was Tai Chi Pioneer. "It's not just about Tai Chi as a martial art, it's also about love and respect, and finding your true passion," he said.

The festival also produced at least one partnership. "An American distributor has decided to buy the film The Rising Star Kindergarten, (a film about the "left-behind children" in rural China) produced by Zhang Yutong and directed by Han Yi. They are negotiating the details now," said Ray Jiang.

Panorama China was helped by 50 Chinese student volunteers from the University of Houston and Rice University.

"I would like to say a big thank you to the volunteers who worked overtime for the event," Jiang said. "This was the first year we organized Panorama China. We faced a lot of challenges, and we are still exploring how to best do it, and I am confident we will do even better next year."

 China's stars come out at film fest

Director Lu Chuan (right) accepts the Best Director award from Hunter Todd, founder and president of WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, as Panorama China chairman Ray Jiang (left) and organizer Dan Qi look on in Houston on Sunday. "I hope you will become the next Steven Spielberg," Todd told Lu. May Zhou / China Daily