American actor and former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was the cynosure of all eyes at the opening of the 5th Beijing International Film Festival on Thursday evening. Looking absolutely tanned, he thanked Chinese fans for making his movies so successful. He stressed the importance of the Chinese market for American cinema. 'I'll be back' within months to promote Terminator Genisys, he told a wildly cheering crowd.Thirty years ago, American studio executives did not want to promote Conan the Barbarian in China, Schwarzenegger said with contemptuous sarcasm. They only wanted to go to England, France and Italy. But today they recognised that a lot of money flowed in from China, he quipped.
The festival, realising the enormous potential that China has as world's number two film market, organised a high profile opening ceremony -- broadcast live in English and Mandarin and held in a swanky new international convention centre that was, though, miles outside Beijing. Also, the inaugural function -- which was amazingly impressive -- did not include the opening film, which will be screened only Friday evening.The event was a beautiful international cultural mélange. One dance number featured Chinese women dressed in blond Marilyn Monroe-esque wigs and white dresses, while another featured Chinese acrobats.
Among the international celebrities in attendance were Kung Fu Panda 2 director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, South Korean auteur Kim Ki-duk, Paramount Pictures Vice Chairman Rob Moore, Chinese director Feng Xiaogang, Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky, The Lion King and Paolo Taviani, the 83-year-old Italian co-director of the opening film, Wondrous Boccaccio.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Beijing International Film Festival.)