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Shanghai Film Festival: 5 Movies Not to Miss



The Shanghai International Film Festival, China’s most prestigious movie industry event, kicks off its 25th-anniversary edition Friday night. It will be the first version of the festival that’s easily accessible to the global film community since 2019, after the past three editions were either canceled or rendered difficult to attend by strict COVID-19 travel restrictions at the time.

This year, film stars from home and abroad will descend on China’s commercial capital to celebrate the ongoing comeback of China’s movie business. Jason Statham will lend some Hollywood star power to the proceedings when he walks the red carpet for the festival’s opening ceremony Friday night in promotion of his upcoming Warner Bros. blockbuster sequel, Meg 2: The Trenchh, which opens Aug. 4 and co-stars Chinese leading man Wu Jing. European film legend, Jerzy Skolimowski of Poland — who wrote Roman Polansky’s landmark Knife in the Water as far back as 1962, and was nominated for an Oscar just last year EO — is the chair of Shanghai’s competition jury this year. And scores of Chinese talent will participate across the event, including the heads of China’s biggest film studios and actors including Zhang Hanyu, Xia Yu, Chow Yun Fat, Han Geng and many more.

The festival’s film selection is as eclectic as ever — with a conspicuous absence of any titles from the US and Korean film industries — but with plenty of potential gems scattered throughout the programming. The festival runs June 9-18. Below, The News84Media has picked five promising titles to check out in Shanghai.

Love Never Endsdirected by Han Yan (China)
Han Yan, long considered one of China’s most promising young commercial directors, opens the 25th Shanghai International Film Festival with this romantic drama about finding love late in life. Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Cecilia Yip, Ni Dahong, and Kara Wai star as two elderly couples who find solace in the film’s story, which is adapted from a wildly popular webcomic by South Korean artist Kang Full. Han made his breakthrough in 2015 with Go Away Mr. Tumor, which was selected as China’s Oscar submission that year. His most recent feature drama, A Little Red Flowerearned $216 million in December 2020, so hopes are high for Love Never Ends.

Mom, Is That You?!directed by Yoji Yamada (Japan)
A living treasure, Japan’s Yoji Yamada, now 91 years old, arrives in Shanghai with his 90th feature film — and one that returns to a theme he has mined with uncommon mastery over his 60-year career: family. Mom, Is That You?! is the third installment in Yamada’s “Mother Series,” following Kabei: Our Mother (2008) and Nagasaki: Memories of My Son (2015), both well-received by critics. The film follows Akio (Yo Oizumi) a beleaguered salaryman on the brink of divorce and with a fraught relationship with his college-aged daughter. One day, he decides to pay a visit to his mother (Japanese screen legend Sayuri Yoshinaga), and notices that things seem to be a little off. She’s traded her kitchen apron for stylish clothes, seems livelier than ever — and is even in love. As he begins to investigate, Akio sees a side of his mother he’d never noticed before — and starts to discover an important part of life he had lost sight of.

Dust to Dustdirected by Jonathan Li

This crime thriller, starring popular comedian Da Peng and actor Zhang Songwen (star of the recent hit TV drama The Knockout), is based on a real armed robbery from 1995, when a group of five thieves ambushed a cash transport vehicle in Guangdong, killing three bank couriers and making away with millions. Three of the culprits were quickly apprehended, but the two masterminds disappeared without a trace — until they suddenly turned up two decades later. The film is directed by Jonathan Li, who cut his teeth as an assistant director on several Hong Kong crime classics, including Infernal Affairs 3, Dog Bite Dogand the Overheard series.

The Signaldirected by Lee Phongsavanh (Laos)
Shanghai is making much of the fact that it has dug deep into some of Asia’s lesser-known territories this year — and here, in the Asian New Talent section, comes some horror-tinged family drama from Laos, likely the smallest market the region has. in terms of film production. First-time feature director Lee Phongsavanh’s plot shows promise — a country girl arrives in the big smoke to search for her father and unearths some unsettling family secrets — and much is expected given how unsettling films from the genre produced by Southeast Asian neighbors, such as Thailand and Vietnam, can so often be.

Master Zhongdirected by Wang Yuxi and Huang Shanchuan (China)
Chinese streamer iQiyi makes no secret of its global ambitions, and its backing the country’s burgeoning animation sector to help it reach international audiences. The streamer has tapped into the talents of two graduates of the influential Beijing Film Academy’s animation school for this one. The film tells a tale of a demon slayer who comes to the rescue of a young girl trapped in the underworld — and who then takes the kid on as an apprentice.

'Mom, Is That You?'

Yoji Yamada’s ‘Mom, Is That You?’

Courtesy of the Shanghai Film Festival

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