SHANGHAI - Shanghai last Saturday night kicked off its annual film festival with a heavy emphasis on Chinese cinema and a sprinkling of Hollywood stars promoting their latest works.
Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and John Cusack were among about 400 guests including Asian celebrities Jiang Wen, John Woo, Jackie Chan and Nicholas Tse at the 17th festival, where actress Gong Li is leading the jury for the festival's Golden Goblet awards to be given out on Sunday.
Bringing early glitter at a pre-opening press conference was Singapore actor Christopher Lee, promoting the spy movie Trump Card (Wang Pai) with castmates Chiling Lin, Tony Leung Ka Fai and Gillian Chung.
Later, on the red carpet, Woo appeared with Song Hye Kyo, the Korean actress in his movie The Crossing. Also from South Korea came Song Seung Heon and singer Rain, who strolled up with Chinese actress Liu Yifei.
And the appearance of a solemnlooking Kai Ko, with the cast of romance Tiny Times 3, was noted following weekend news that the Taiwanese actor has called off his two-year romance with singer Elva Hsiao.
Cusack, in China to shoot the action movie Dragon Blade, appeared with co-stars Chan and Lin Peng. Tse was seen with Gao Yuanyuan, his co-star in the love story But Always.
At the opening, Kidman, who was promoting Grace Of Monaco, was presented with an award for outstanding contributions to film by Grant and Woo.
"I like Chinese women. I like that they're strong and they have a very good sense of humour," she said, answering a question about Chinese culture. "That's my dream, one day to play a Chinese woman," she added with a laugh.
Taking the award for outstanding contributions to Chinese film, Chinese director Jiang Wen said he initially thought he won the award because he is old enough, having turned 51 years old.
He then joked that he changed his mind after looking at Kidman, 46, saying: "Nicole is still so young and beautiful. So I thought, I got this... because of looks."
Actor Grant, whose movie The Rewrite will show at the festival, received a brief lesson in Shanghai dialect from a host, repeating "I love Shanghai" to the screams of fans, reported Agence France-Presse.
The festival dates back to 1993, but a similar event in Beijing has stolen some of the spotlight, though it has been running for only four years, industry officials said.
"China's film centre is Beijing," said movie critic Raymond Zhou. But he added: "The Shanghai film festival has nurtured a loyal audience, who are all movie enthusiasts. Every year, there are many classic movies screened."
Chinese state media has recently criticised big-budget action films in an indirect swipe at foreign movies, reported Agence France-Presse.
"Chinese moviegoers want more than car chases, explosions and eye-catching special effects," the official Xinhua news agency said in a recent article which declared a "golden period" for lowbudget Chinese movies.
It praised Chinese art-house production Black Coal, Thin Ice, which won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin International Film Festival last February.
The gritty thriller about a former policeman will be screened at the festival.
This article was first published on June 16, 2014.
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