Shanghai film fest kicks off with honor for Mike Medavoy
SHANGHAI –- The Shanghai International Film Festival kicked off Saturday night by honoring a native-son turned Hollywood producer, Mike Medavoy.
Medavoy -- co-founder of Orion Pictures, producer on such films as "Black Swan," and chief executive of Phoenix Pictures -- received an Outstanding Achievement Award at the festival, applauded by the city where he was born in 1941 to Ukrainian Jewish refugees.
"Shanghai has roots for me. My parents lived here for 24 years and this is the place that gave them the safety net they needed," said Medavoy, who lived in China's biggest city until he was nearly 7. Qin Yi, a silver-haired former starlet, presented Medavoy with the award. Holding the heavy-looking golden goblet, he fumbled a handshake from her outstretched hand.
"The 50 years I've spent in Hollywood all started in cinemas here in Shanghai," Medavoy said, recalling the tears his late father shed upon landing at the city's airport 15 years ago on a father-son trip to the first Shanghai International Film Festival.
"This was the place that saved our lives," Medavoy recalled his father saying. "For that, I'm grateful," Medavoy added. "I will come back again and again."
Medavoy is working on dramatic film and television versions of an epic drama called "The Cursed Piano," a four-decade love story about a European immigrant pianist and his Chinese lover set partially in the Jewish communities of pre-revolutionary Shanghai. Medavoy's partner on these projects is the Shanghai Film Group.
On the red carpet earlier, Chinese celebrities and international film personalities decked out in evening wear shone in the spotlight. Heather Graham, a festival jurist, and Aaron Eckhart, a visitor, were followed by a gaggle of government bureaucrats in dark suits into the Shanghai Grand Theater. (The jury is being chaired by French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud.)
Inside, kung fu comic Jackie Chan presented leading man Chow Yun-fat with an award for his contribution to Chinese cinema –- ranging from early films by John Woo such as 1989’s "The Killer," through Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" (2000) and Jiang Wen's "Let the Bullets Fly” (2010).
Chan and Chow -- both Hong Kong natives -- have also recently set their sights on filmmaking in mainland China's booming market, where ticket sales rose 30% last year to $2.1 billion.
Following the awards, most VIPS left for parties sponsored by the Shanghai Film Group and luxury watchmaker Jaeger LeCoultre, letting the public file in for the opening night film, the supernatural fantasy "Painted Skin II: The Resurrection," director Wuershan's sequel to the 2008 box office hit original.
The festival offers a sliver of China's swelling movie audience the chance to see hundreds of films from around the world that would not likely otherwise make it onto big screens due to strict import controls.
Two competitions -- for the international Golden Goblet and Asian New Talent awards -- feature a few dozen films from around the world. Notably, China, India, Russia and Finland have at least two entries apiece, while there is no competition entry from the United States.
-- Jonathan Landreth
Photos: At top, Hong Kong actor Chow Yun Fat, left, and Chinese actor Huang Xiaoming smile on the red carpet before the opening ceremony of the Shanghai International Film Festival at Shanghai Grand Theater on Saturday. At bottom, Chinese actress Li Bingbing, left, and French film director Jean-Jacques Annaud walk the red carpet. Credit: Eugene Hoshiko / Associated Press