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Beijing Film Festival Eying Date Change to August

 Lintao Zhang/Getty Images


Insiders say a shift to August is expected in the hopes that international filmmakers and guests will be able to visit China by then.

The Beijing International Film Festival, which typically takes place in mid-April but has yet to announce its plans for 2021, is considering a postponement to August.

Organizers are hoping that by late summer the pandemic will have subsided to an extent that international filmmakers and guests are able to travel to China to participate in the event, sources in contact with organizers of the government-backed festival told The Hollywood Reporter Friday.

The Beijing festival's organizers have yet to make any public statement about their plans for 2021, leaving many in the Chinese industry unsure of whether it will still be taking place in just under one month. The 9th edition of the Beijing festival was the last instance in which the event was held during its usual slot, running April 13-20, 2019.

In April 2020, cinemas were still shuttered throughout China as a precaution against the pandemic, so organizers pivoted to a hastily assembled online mini-festival, which took place over local streaming giant iQiyi's platforms in May. Organizers later held a modestly scaled physical festival in August as part of a nationwide effort to reopen cinemas and reboot the Chinese film industry. Guests from overseas were unable to attend, however, because of the extreme expense of air tickets into China and the country's strict quarantine requirements.

During its ten years of operation, the Beijing International Film Festival has never managed to establish much film market activity, so a postponement to August would have little impact on Chinese and international film buyers and sellers.

Instead, the event has tended to serve as a photo opportunity for international companies and talent to unveil the coproduction partnerships they have been developing with Chinese counterparts. Chinese companies also use the event as a platforms for promoting domestic joint ventures — especially if they involve a state-backed entity.

Panel discussions featuring Chinese industry leaders are held, but the discussions rarely veer away from cheerleading and overtly politically correct talking points. There has always been a prevailing sense hanging over all of the festival's activities of all participants straining to make the proper impression on regulators and government authorities.

Still, the event has brought Beijing residents a robust offering that fulfills the core function of a film festival: the opportunity to see a diverse selection of movies that ordinarily wouldn't be publicly screened in the city. The 2019 Beijing festival screened 261 films, spanning the event's usual mix of popcorn fare, high-minded retrospectives and a scattershot survey of indie moviemaking from the past year. Tickets to the event tend to sell out and many of the movies featured have never previously been shown on the big screen in the Chinese capital.


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