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Rising Chinese director gets top award at Turin film festival

A former assistant director to Zhang Yimou has won the top award at an Italian film festival that promotes works by rising directors around the world.

Chinese film The Donor, directed by Zang Qiwu, was awarded best movie and best screenplay at the 34th Turin Film Festival. The news was announced on the festival’s website on Saturday.

Zang, 40, has worked with Zhang on some of his best known works including Under the Hawthorn Tree and The Flowers of War.

The Donor tells the story of a poor Chinese man who wants to make money for his wife and son by selling a kidney to a rich family.

The film was selected for being “so beautifully observed in such rigorous poetic means, in storytelling, direction, performance and understanding in the world we try and live in”, the festival jury wrote on the website.

The Donor also won the “New Currents Award” at the 21st Busan International Film Festival in South Korea last month.

Another Chinese film, Knife in the Clear Water by Wang Xuebo, won the “Busan” award, which is given to new directors in Asia.

Wang’s film, about ethnic Hui people in northwestern China, also won an award for cinematography at the Hawaii International Film Festival earlier this month.

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Despite the accolades for the two young directors, the absence of Chinese movies at the world’s top film festivals this year has disappointed many in the industry.

The world’s second largest film market had no home-made works in the competition sections of film festivals held in Cannes, Venice or Toronto.

The slowdown in China’s box office growth this year has also led many to question whether poor quality or a lack of novelty in mainland films have driven audiences towards foreign films.

Cinema box-office receipts in China grew 13 per cent in the first eight months of 2016, according to industry consultancy Entgroup.

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The growth was down sharply from 2015, when box office takings jumped 48 per cent year on year.

Although the distribution of imported movies is tightly controlled to favour domestic films, half of the 10 films that saw the highest ticket sales in 2016 were made in the United States, according to Entgroup.

Speaking to mainland news portal Sohu.com in October, Zang said Chinese films had yet to reach international standards.

“I do not think they discriminate against Chinese-language movies,” the director was quoted as saying.

“Look at the works at the top three festivals.

“They are ahead of their time. Their ideas are brilliant.”