Beijing prepares to roll out the red carpet for Hollywood hotshots

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Hollywood royalty is set to grace the red carpet at this year's Beijing International Film Festival as its second edition attempts to secure the event as the premier one of its kind in China.

Both Oscar-winning director James Cameron and actor Keanu Reeves have signed on to appear in Beijing for the festival, which will run at various venues across the Chinese capital from April 23-28.

It is a smart and timely piece of promotion for both men, with Cameron's 3D version of Titanic currently screening around China and Reeves putting the finishing touches on his debut effort as a director, the actioner Man of Tai Chi, which has been partly shot in Beijing.

Festival organizers say they will be screening more than 260 films from across the globe over the course of the six-day event while hosting a film market that aims to bridge the gap between China and the international film community. Among the local stars set to grace the red carpet are directors Feng Xiaogang and John Woo and stars Tang Wei, Fan Bingbing, Zhang Ziyi and Jackie Chan.

Among the international films screening are Oscar winners The Artist and A Separation and last year's Palme d'Or winner from Cannes, The Tree of Life, while the smash hit from Taiwan last year -- the historical epic Seediq Bale - will get a screening but in a version that has been reduced to 2.5 hours from four.

Up until the first edition of the Beijing event last year, the annual Shanghai International Film Festival -- held every June -- was the undisputed jewel in the Chinese film industry's crown, with a consistent line up of local and international A-list stars and a market that had attracted the interest of the world's leading studios.

But with the Chinese government showing a heavy hand in Beijing last year, industry watchers are keen to see how this year's edition develops.

What is certain though is that there has never before been so much interest in Chinese cinema -- and the Chinese cinema industry -- both inside and outside the country. Last year box office receipts in China amounted to an estimated 13 billion yuan (1.6 billion euros), up by close to 30 percent on-year.

The government also announced in February that it was extending the quota on foreign films allowed in for screening from 20 per year to 34.

2nd Beijing International Film Festival
April 23-28
Various venues
http://www.bjiff.com

MS

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