Beijing to screen 100 foreign films

One hundred international films, including four Oscar-winners come to Beijing.

Beijing might be home for 80 per cent of China’s film studios and filmmakers – and have contributed almost one tenth of last year’s 9.8 billion RMB national box office revenue – but bloody Shanghai still manages to steal all the limelight with its 14-year-old International Film Festival. Or at least it did. But on April 23 our fair city will fight back with a new fest that will screen up to 100 international films.

Yep, you read that right: while Chinese cinemas are restricted to just 20 international films a year, the six-day Beijing International Film Festival will screen five times that number, including four Oscar-winners: body-horror ballet flick Black Swan, Facebook biopic The Social Network, gruelling rock-and-a-hard-place drama 127 Hours and – our favourite – blackly comic cowboy film True Grit.

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The project is being masterminded by The State Administration of Radio, Film and TV (Sarft) and Beijing’s local government, and will promote international cooperation between filmmakers, with forums on co-productions, dialogues between Chinese filmmakers and their international cousins, and academic seminars. But as far as we’re concerned the most exciting bit of the fest is the opportunity to watch a slew of great international films as they were meant to be seen, rather than on our slightly knackered old living-room TV.

A word of warning for film purists, however: there may be a bit of judicious celluloid chopping to make the films China compatible. One possible target of the censor’s shears is the steamy lesbonic sex scene at the heart of Darren Aronofsky’s startling Black Swan. When asked about the matter, Liu Chun, a Sarft official, said: “If certain footage needs to be edited and the studio agrees, we will try our best to screen the film.”

There’s been no word on whether the scene, which sees stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis lip-locking, will wind up on the cutting-room floor, but anyone desperate to see it will no doubt be able to pick up an unedited DVD from other sources (and if that’s your only reason for wanting to see the pic then you probably don’t want to watch it in public anyway…).

 In any case, we still think that this festival is to be applauded, and will be first in line for the screenings when the whole thing kicks off in April. Just don’t expect this to become the Chinese Oscars; the festival won’t be handing out any awards. Well, not this year at least. We suppose they have to save something for 2012.