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A Tale Of Two Cities

Shanghai audiences take to Mr Hitchcock

  • Helen Mirren introduces our Hitchcock programme in Shanghai

June 2013

British film hits Festivals in Shanghai and Edinburgh

Working in partnership with the BFI, we’ve been having a busy week delivering a significantly increased presence for British film at the 16th Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) which runs until 23 June.

Despite a quota system limiting non-domestic titles in Chinese cinemas, UK film is increasingly celebrated by Chinese audiences and we’re working hard to find more opportunities to get the full range of UK film onto Chinese screens.

A highlight of the festival was a screeening of the BFI’s highly acclaimed restorations of Hitchcock’s early silent films – the ‘Hitchcock 9’ – the first time that all 9 films have been presented in China. Earlier this week to kick off the series, Blackmail had its Asian premiere (just 84 years late!). The first screening to take place in the extraordinary new Shanghai Film Museum that had opened just one day previously, Blackmail was accompanied live by Beijing-based electronic musicians FM3 and enthusiastically received by a packed house of over 400 young viewers. A further six of the restored films are being accompanied live by the celebrated UK-based pianist John Sweeney who has enjoyed a rapturous reception by vast audiences. BFI Senior Curator Robin Baker is also in Shanghai to deliver a lecture on the Hitchcock restoration programme which includes a unique before-and-after clip reel showing the extent of the restoration work that has taken place.

Other guests flying the flag - for British Film and for Hitchcock - included King’s Speech director Tom Hooper (heading the SIFF jury) and Helen Mirren, whose welcome speech before Blackmail’s premiere talked perceptively about Hitcock's wife, Alma Reville's, contribution to his work (something she is intimately aware of having recently made Hitchcock, in which she stars as Alma).

Fortunately the stunning new Museum’s tech spec includes excellent air conditioning as we screened Blackmail on the hottest 17 June in Shanghai since records began in 1873...

As part of a new relationship between British Council and SIFF, the Festival programme also includes seven contemporary UK feature films: The Angels' Share, Berberian Sound Studio, Shadow Dancer, Ginger & Rosa – all backed by the BFI Film Fund - as well as Everyday, Song for Marion and Quartet, all screening for the first time to Chinese audiences. Two UK short filmmakers are also attending SIFF supported by funds from the joint British Council/BFI Short Support Scheme; BAFTA-nominated The Voorman Problem and The Craftsman will both screen as part of ‘Mobile SIFF’, the Festival’s short film forum.

A full delegation from the BFI, led by CEO Amanda Nevill is attending the festival to meet Chinese counterparts. Looking ahead, a UK/China exchange programme in 2014 will see the largest ever retrospective of Chinese Cinema at BFI Southbank.

Heading to Edinburgh
Closer to home, with temperatures a little lower but none the less exciting, Edinburgh’s International Film Festival (EIFF) kicked off in style last night - and we're heading up the East Coast Mainline to deliver a range of British Council-supported activity. 

McLaren Animation
We’re partnering EIFF's McLaren Award for New British Animation for the first time this year. First given in 1990, the award provides a focus for new short British animation and recognises the spirit of creativity, and is named in honour of Norman McLaren, the renowned Scottish-born animator. We’ll be offering a £1000 prize to the winning film and immediately post-EIFF, we’ll be launching a new international touring programme of films drawn from the last three year’s EIFF’s McLaren Award, representing some of the very best contemporary British Animation.

Regards Croises
For a second year we’re partnering the National Film and Television School's Regards Croises screenwriting programme, but this time in a new guise in partnership with both EIFF and Ecoles Superieure des Arts Visuels (ESAV) in Marrakech, Morocco.  4 UK-based screenwriters selected from the NFTS graduate programme, will join 2 screenwriters from the EIFF screenwriting programme and 4 Moroccan screenwriters in a residential workshop at EIFF this week. A second workshop will follow at the Marrakech International Film Festival in November 2013, where the participants will pitch their feature projects to industry.

A focus on iFeatures
We’re happy to be hosting an EIFF industry session exploring Creative England’s innovative low budget feature film initiative, iFeatures.  The three new directors whose films have been greenlit for production, this year (Norfolk, Spaceship and The Goob) will be discussing the experience of developing their projects through iFeatures as well as their plans for production over the summer. There will also be a chance to hear more about the next iteration of iFeatures which launches in early 2014.

After all that we’ll be ready for dinner – and luckily we have one planned as we’re honoured to be co-hosting a Festival dinner alongside our colleagues at the Korean Cultural Centre, in an evening designed to introduce the Festival’s international guests to key members of the UK industry.

Finally, despite being up to his eyes in pre-Festival planning EIFF Artistic Director Chris Fujiwara had time to sit in our Spotlight, revealing the films from his past that have affected the Festival choices he makes now.