New York Film Festival focusing on China in '09

Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:58am EDT
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By Jonathan Landreth

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Two weeks before the New York Film Festival launches its 46th edition, plans are already underway for next year's event.

The '09 version will mark the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China with a rare retrospective of films made between 1949 and the start of the Cultural Revolution in 1966.

Richard Pena, director of the NYFF and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, went to Beijing for a week in July to work with the China Film Archive to organize the first major U.S. screening for a collection of about 20 films made in the early years of China's state-run studio system.

In an interview, Pena said that there is a lot of scholarship on Chinese films from the so-called Golden Era of the 1930s, a little less from the 1940s, and a lot, again, on films made after the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976.

"But that period from '49 to '66 is like a black hole," Pena said. "Almost no one has written about it. Nobody's not interested in the period, but it's just not an easy era to tap into."

The retrospective will revisit the best-known films from the period, including works by director Xie Jin ("Two Stage Sisters," "Red Detachment of Women"), but also will bring to light some gems unknown outside China.

"It's a project I've been wanting to do for a long, long time," said Pena, whose classes at Columbia University include one on Chinese cinema.

A Chinese scholar Pena met with in Beijing was at once complimentary and critical of his proposed list of films and ultimately introduced him to a "whole genre" of detective films from the period, "some of which are very good," Pena said.   Continued...