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The dilemma of the Chinese film industry in the face of pandemic: Shanghai International Film Festival suspended

The Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) was established in 1993 and is the first and only international A-list film festival in the Chinese region. It is held annually in June in Shanghai, mainland China.

On June 6, the SIFF organising committee announced that due to the impact of Covid-19, it had decided to postpone the 25th edition of the festival, which was originally scheduled to take place in June this year, to next year. This is the first time that SIFF has been suspended since the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003.

In the announcement, the organising committee expressed its gratitude and apologised to the community who supported SIFF. It also proposed to plan and hold theme events related to the festival later this year if conditions permit, but the situation is not optimistic.

Meanwhile, on 5 June, China's human resources and social security authorities issued a notice stating that the film and cultural arts industries were added to the original five disadvantage industries (catering, retail, tourism, civil aviation and railway transport) and that film was identified as a particularly poor industry.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in China in 2020, the Chinese film industry has experienced an unprecedented "winter" as cinemas and theatres have been unable to operate normally due to the tightening of the national pandemic prevention policy.

According to official media statistics, as of April 2022, nine brands of cinemas have permanently ceased operations across the country, and the entire film industry chain has been visibly affected, with many companies in the film and television production industry seeking to transform themselves. The situation is even more difficult for major cultural and entertainment events such as film festivals and theatre festivals, which are already underdeveloped in China. 

In addition, China 2021's annual film summary report shows that eight film and television companies have announced serious losses totalling around RMB2.5 billion. Huayi Brothers Media Corporation, the largest entertainment and media company in mainland China, has also announced that it will apply for an RMB210 million loan extension.

When SIFF officially announced the suspension, fans took to the official account to express their inability to understand why such strict measures were maintained despite the gradual improvement and unblocking of the pandemic. One viewer commented, "Shanghai people have already lost April and May, it doesn't matter if we lose one more June."

The SIFF, which has been running for almost 30 years, is a rare platform for introducing original films from niche countries and is very important in building the film-going culture of the city of Shanghai. The delay has left fans saying they "see no hope" and fearing the festival will disappear forever.

Faced with an ongoing pandemic and under strict government restrictions, it is feared that the dilemma of Chinese cinema has become the norm, and there is still a continued need to wait and see.

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