Comedy “Zonad” By John Carney (“Once”) Among 16 Foreign Films In Running, To Be Chosen By Jury Featuring John Woo
There has been a low-key but steadily growing effort by Ireland to increase promotional efforts and cultural exchange in China, from tourism promotions to diplomatic engagements and events like the upcoming Irish National Pavilion Day at the Shanghai World Expo. This week, Ireland will have its largest-ever presence at the Shanghai International Film Festival — with 21 Irish films taking part — and films by John Carney (“Zonad”, “Once”) and Neil Jordan (“Ondine”, “The Crying Game”) nominated for this year’s “Jin Jue” or “Golden Goblet.” This marks the first time Irish films have been nominated for the award, which will be chosen by a jury headed by director John Woo.
“Just as the rest of the world is staggering under the economic downturn, it’s remarkable how much optimism there is in China,” said “Zonad” producer Andrew Lowe of Element Pictures, a first-time visitor to China like the much of the rest of the Irish delegation, which also includes Grainne Humphreys, director of the Dublin International Film Festival.
Like filmmakers from many other countries, the Irish are just now turning their eyes eastward, unlike, say, the French who have long trained their focus on China, a fact reflected Sunday night in director Luc Besson winning the SIFF lifetime achievement award.
As Andrew Lowe told reporters in Shanghai, cultural exchange obviously isn’t a one-way street, there is no reason why Chinese films can’t have a larger presence at the Irish box office.
SIFF jury president Woo’s “Red Cliff” recently ran in Ireland, as did “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Hero,” and “House of Flying Daggers,” before that. There’s room for Chinese art house cinema, too, said Lowe, who brings an uncensored 35mm print of “Barley” to SIFF as a part of the Irish retrospective.
“Whether they’re French or Chinese or Polish or Irish, art house films have to share the screen in Ireland,” Lowe said, adding that his small distribution company wouldn’t rule out importing Chinese films in the future.
Lowe said he will leave Shanghai for home and try to open a discussion in Dublin about the possibility of a co-production treaty with China, something France recently signed and New Zealand is expected to do in July.
The retrospective of Irish works continues at the SIFF, as well as the Beijing International Movie Festival, through June 30, and includes “Five Minutes of Heaven,” “Once,” “The Secret of Kells,” “Michael Collins” and “My Left Foot.”