There was plenty of Hollywood to go around on the opening day of the second Beijing International Film Festival on Monday. The day started with a morning screening of Marvel's "The Avengers" and finished with a gala that included popular vocalist Wang Leehom playing the piano and singing “As Time Goes By” from “Casablanca” while images of Humphrey Bogart floated across a backdrop. An orchestra even played a medley of Hollywood scores, from “Star Wars” and “Titanic” to “Mamma Mia!”
But if overseas visitors had any doubt about how China perceives its role in the movie world, the opening night gala provided ample reminders that it envisions great things.
Between acrobatic dancers performing in rich silks and a shrill processional conjuring Peking Opera, Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong, the festival’s honorary chairman, nearly shouted at classical oratory volumes at the roughly 2,000 guests packed into the China National Convention Center theater for the three-hour gala.
Touting the six-day Beijing event as a better draw than its veteran competitor -- the Shanghai International Film Festival, which will turn 15 this June -- Guo said that the Beijing event was meant to define the capital as “a national cultural center and contributor to the exchange and prosperity of the world film industry.”
As Guo and Zhang Pimin, deputy director of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, belted out their speeches, their prepared remarks were projected onto giant screens for the few hundred foreign visitors in the audience, including, in the front row, James Cameron, director of the current China box-office hit “Titanic 3D.”