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What to watch at the 2019 Beijing International Film Festival

Independent cinema meets Hollywood blockbusters at this year’s BJIFF

Photo: Girl
The Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF) kicks off this year on April 13 and runs until April 20. This annual film showcase spans 30 theatres and 58 screens across Beijing, featuring the best of international and Chinese films.

Despite BJIFF's cancellation of coming-of-age gay romantic drama film Call Me By Your Name last year due to government clamp-downs, this year's 2019 line-up will, oddly enough, feature several prominent LGBTQ films such as romantic teen-comedy drama Love, Simon and 2018 drama film Girl, starring Victor Polster as a trans girl pursuing a career as a ballerina.

With 261 films to catch, this year’s film festival covers all bases from blockbuster hits to arthouse films and a wide range of genres from thrillers to documentaries. Here are some of the films not to miss out on this year.

Mad Max marathon series

F Mad Max
Catch all five movies of this Australian dystopian action franchise at this year’s festival. The series, which follows the adventures of Max Rockatansky, a police officer in a post-apocalyptic world, is ranked by film critics as some of the best action films ever made. Catch the entire series including 2015's Max Max: Fury Road which has, by the way, never before been released in China.

Bourne series marathon

F Bourne
The entire Bourne action-thriller series is coming to the big screens in Beijing. Marathon through all five Bourne films starring Hollywood heartthrob Matt Damon including The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), The Bourne Legacy (2012) and Jason Bourne (2016).

Film classics

F Pather Panchali
This year’s BJIFF will also pay tribute to the screen works of prominent twentieth-century film masters. Featuring nine of Akira Kurosawa's films, including the classic 1950's film Rashomon and The Idiot (1951), fans of this greatly influential Japanese filmmaker can now enjoy his works on big screens right here. The festival will also screen the works of highly acclaimed Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, including the films of the Apu trilogy: Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and Apu Sansar (1959). Pather Panchali, the director's first film, has established itself in the filmmaking pantheon thanks to Ray's lyrical, yet realistic, depictions of village life in Bengal. It has also nabbed the Indian filmmaker several international prizes including the Best Human Document award at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.

Set your eyes on China

F Founding of a Republic
To salute the founding of the People's Republic of China 70 years ago, BJIFF will feature the best of Chinese cinema. Included is China's official foreign-language Oscar film submission, Dream Weavers (2008), which details the city's preparation as hosts of the highly anticipated Olympics back in 2008. This section also features Peacock (2005), a film set in the early 1970s and '80s that tells the stories of ordinary Chinese folks after the tumultuous '60s, 2009's Chinese propaganda film The Founding of a Republic and film classic Romance on Lushan Mountain (1980), which made the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running film and has since been watched by an estimated 400 million people.

New films

F A Land Imagined
The government-backed Belt and Road segment sounds a little propaganda-y but has, surprisingly, a solid list of recently premiered international indie films. On the list is Singaporean film A Land Imagined (2018), winner of the Golden Leopard award at the prestigious arthouse film platform, the Locarno International Film Festival. Set as a mystery-thriller drama, A Land Imagined tells the stories of migrant workers in Singapore. Another highlight is The Day I Lost My Shadow (2018), a film by French-born Syrian director Soudade Kaadan about a Syrian mother's separation from her son in the face of war-torn Syria. For all film enthusiasts, this prized segment might be the best opportunity to catch these indie films on the big screen before they leave the film festival circuit.

For more information on film listings as well as ways to get tickets to all of the festival's screenings, check out the official website here.

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