‘Mulan’ Star Gong Li Set as Chairman of Beijing Film Festival Jury

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Mulan’ actor Gong Li will serve as the chairman of the international jury doling out the top Tiantan Awards at this year’s Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF), the event said Tuesday. The festival’s 11th iteration is set to take place in person in the Chinese capital from August 14-21, 2021.

In BJIFF’s official announcement of Gong’s role, it mentioned all of Gong’s past experiences as jury chairman at major festivals, such as the 50th Berlin International Film Festival, the 59th Venice International Film Festival, the 16th Tokyo International Film Festival, and the 17th Shanghai International Film Festival, noting that in 1997, she also served as a jury member at Cannes.

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It did not, however, mention her turn as jury president of the Taipei-based Golden Horse Awards in 2018. That year, an awards speech mentioning Taiwanese independence caused a political rift between the festival and its Chinese attendees after Beijing demanded that its artists boycott it. Chinese media have not mentioned Taiwan’s festival since.

Gong recently portrayed the shapeshifting sorceress character Xianniang in Disney’s “Mulan” opposite young star Liu Yifei in the titular role. The film grossed $41 million in China last November, according to Box Office Mojo.

Among her more recent roles, however, she is perhaps better known in China for portraying the Chinese national volleyball team’s coach Lang Ping in “Leap,” the sports biopic from Hong Kong director Peter Chan that was submitted as China’s entry to the Oscar race this year.

The Beijing International Film Festival was founded in 2011. It has typically occurred in April, but was postponed until the summer last year due to COVID-19. This April, the festival announced that it would once again be delayed and run instead in mid-Augusat.

In 2019, the Tiantan Award for best feature film went to the Danish film “A Fortunate Man,” directed by Billie August. Hungary’s Laszlo Nemes won best director for “Sunset,” while Iran’s Forough Ghajabagli won best actress for her role in “Tehran: City of Love” and Greece’s Aris Servetails best actor for their role in “The Waiter.”

Although the festival seeks to present itself as being an “international level” event with “Chinese characteristics,” it has historically been much more locally focused and politicized than its other major government-backed counterpart, the more business-oriented and globally minded Shanghai International Film Festival.

This year, it will be even harder for BJIFF or any Chinese event to be truly “international” given the ongoing difficulty for foreigners and locals alike to enter the country with China’s ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.

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