David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
It was a two-continent crush of crazy at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood today when Feng Xiaogang became the first Chinese director to sinks his hands and shoes into wet cement for posterity at the storied venue.
Feng, who has directed more than 20 mostly comedy films in China, is having the U.S. premiere of his historical drama Back to 1942 — China’s entry for the Foreign Language Film Oscar — at the theater this evening. It’s part of a weekend-long “panorama” featuring screenings of some of Feng’s notable films, sponsored by the Chinese government media office and the city of Beijing’s bureau of radio, film and TV. Back to 1942, set during the horrific World War II famine that killed millions in China, features a raft of notable Chinese stars along with Tim Robbins and Adrien Brody.
Theater executives said they were surprised and a bit overwhelmed by the crush of media, actors, directors and others who flew over from China to take part in Feng’s imprinting event. Security struggled to both appease the fire marshal and manage the crowd jammed into the theater’s relatively small courtyard.
The event is part of a broader push by the Chinese government to curry relationships with Hollywood and its film and TV industry, coming after last week’s event at the Beverly Hilton that featured U.S. producers and others talking about working in the Chinese capital city. “This is a very important ceremony for Chinese directors to participate in here in Hollywood, the cinematical capital of the world,” the Beijing bureau’s director, Li Chun Liang, said through an interpreter. The event also is “an opportunity to strengthen exchanges and enhance collaboration.”
The event drew proclamations from Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, long a China fan who married a Chinese-born actress, and representatives from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Hollywood’s current City Council member, Mitch O’Farrell. “This is a man who joins some of the visionary directors we’ve had here in the past, Alfred Hitchcock and Ron Howard, Clint Eastwood,” said Antonovich, who added that he hoped events like this one will encourage more collaborations with Chinese productions companies at facilities such as a new Disney-owned studio being expanded in Santa Clarita, which is part of Antonovich’s district.