Monday, April 27, 2009

Beida Student Film Festival Goes Populist

"Forever Enthralled" director Chen Kaige holds the Best Film award - is that a golden duck?

The Beijing University Student Film Festival had its 16th Annual Awards on Sunday night, with mainstream films taking the bulk of the awards. Best Film went to Forever Enthralled (Chinese title: 梅兰芳 or Méi Lánfāng), the biopic of Peking Opera legend Mei Lanfang. Chen Kaige's film with its big-name cast was much hyped as one of 2008's blockbusters. It has garnered several Best Film nominations on the festival circuit but up until now has missed out on the big prize.

Martial arts star Donnie Yen (甄子丹, pinyin: Zhēn Zǐdān) won the Best Actor award for his portrayal of Kung Fu master Ip Man in the film of the same name. And Zhou Xun (周迅, pinyin: Zhōu Xùn) added another Best Actress award to her collection for her performance as a lovelorn taxi driver in The Equation of Love and Death. She has already won Best Actress at the Asian Film Awards (see my earlier blog entry) for the same role. Zhou is turning out to be a Beida festival favourite: it's the third time she has picked up an award at this festival (she was previously honoured back in 2001 and 2005).

The only award that was a little bit out of left field was Best Director, which went to Zhang Jiarui (章家瑞) for Red River. Red River has only just being released this month, and so has yet to feature in the main award ceremonies held so far. The film, set on the Sino-Vietnam border, is a transnational love story about a Vietnamese migrant woman traumatised by the (American) Vietnam War when she was a girl.

The Festival prides itself on its "student organised, student judged" philosophy; the film festival jury that selects the films for showing is predominantly represented by university students, along with a handful of "experts". In its sixteen year history it has often honoured some avant-guard and non-mainstream films neglected by the big award ceremonies.

The Festival's student audience also gets a vote for their favourite actor, actress and director. Red River's female lead, the talented Zhang Jingchu (張靜初), was named Favourite Actress, and popular mainland comedian Fan Wei (范伟) took out Favourite Actor. Favourite Director went to Wilson Yip (叶伟信) for his work on Ip Man.

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