Asia steps into Cannes spotlight

13th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Asia stepped into the spotlight at the Cannes film festival Thursday, with an offering from acclaimed Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai making a grand entry.

As sun elbowed off rain clouds hovering over the French Riviera, warm applause from world critics rang out in the festival's main 2,000 seater theatre for the Chinese father-son drama, "Chongqing Blues".

Wang's movie is the first of an impressive batch of five Asian feature films competing for the top Cannes award, the Palme d'Or.

In all 19 films are contending for the prize, to be announced at a closing ceremony on May 23 by a jury headed by US director Tim Burton.

Wang, 43, is no first-timer on the international festival circuit, long known for movies that take a hard look at contemporary China.

And his poignant "Chongqing Blues" is no exception. As a father who long ago abandoned his wife and son returns to find out how the boy died, Wang explores the changing face of Chinese society.

"Amid China's rapid economic development we have lost our values, our family values, cultural values," he said at a news conference. "The father's quest for his lost son is also a quest for traditional values."

The movie is set in the foggy sombre city of Chongqing in southern Sichuan province, a mess of mushrooming sky-scrapers for blue-collar workers who in back streets and dingy courtyards often live communally as they did decades ago.

China this year makes its first foray on the Cannes Film Market, the world's biggest annual movie marketplace.

The mainland Chinese film industry claims that, on average, one new cinema screen is opened every day and the country's box office takings last year saw a year-on-year rise of 44 percent.

Coming next from Asia is the first of two South Korean movies vying for the Palme -- Im Sang-soo's "The Housemaid", to be followed by Lee Chang-dong's "Poetry".

Other entries are Japanese director Takeshi Kitano's "Outrage" and Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives".

The 12-day festival kicked off Wednesday with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett stepping up the fabled red carpet for a gala black-tie ceremony also attended by Eva Longoria, Aishawrya Rai-Bachchan and Salma Hayek.

Sean Penn, Mick Jagger, Naomi Watts, Woody Allen and Jean-Luc Godard are among a bevy of other A-listers due to jet into Cannes.

Also contending for the Palme are works by major arthouse names such as Iran's Abbas Kiarostami and Britain's Mike Leigh and Ken Loach.

The only US film in competition for the Palme this year is "Fair Game" by "The Bourne Identity" director Doug Liman.

© 2010 AFP

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