It Must Be Heaven directed by Elia Suleiman
It Must Be Heaven directed by Elia Suleiman

Elia Suleiman’s IT MUST BE HEAVEN was named Best Film at the CineCina Film Festival – THE ROAD, the first edition of its world cinema film festival. At the filmmaker award ceremony Yuri Bykov won Best Director for his work on THE FACTORY, and Na Renhua won for Best Performance for her work in A DOG BARKING AT THE MOON.

It Must Be Heaven – Trailer

The jury was comprised of three internationally noted filmmakers; Samuel Maoz (LEBANON), Christine Choy (WHO KILLED VINCENT CHIN?), and Deepak Rauniyar (WHITE SUN), who, in addition to Best Film, Best Director, and Best Performance, also gave a Special Jury Award for Artistic Achievement to Gints Zilbalodis, for his overall effort in AWAY.

Regarding presenting Suleiman’s IT MUST BE HEAVEN with the Best Film Award, the jury described the film as “a true cinematic achievement,” adding that the film was “full of human love, has lots of imagination and surprising ideas, and also relevant for the world that we live in today.”

Commenting on the Best Director Award given to Yuri Bykov for THE FACTORY, they said, “the director created a microcosm of a society where personal and social are in constant conflict by taking full control of every aspect of the cinema.” Na Renhua’s Best Performance for her role as Li Jiumei in A DOG BARKING AT THE MOON inspired the jury to state that Jiumei delivered “an impeccable performance. She understands the character both emotionally and physically. It is simply brilliant.” Bykov sent a thank you message from Russia where he is at work on his next feature, thanking CineCina FF and the jury for their “high evaluation” of the film, and adding that he looks forward to the possibility of attending the film festival with his next film.

As far as the inspiration for giving a Special Jury Award for Artistic Achievement to Gints Zilbalodis, for his film AWAY, the jury was effusive in their praise, saying, “The amount of work the filmmaker embraced, both technical and storytelling, is remarkable, at age of 25. Animation is extremely time consuming but the result is incredible.”

CineCina Film Festival Founder and Director Vina Sun, said, “Our first foray into celebrating world cinema with this film festival was incredibly rewarding in too many ways to count. Our ‘road’ theme was beyond appropriate because the journey to celebrate great cinema from all corners of the world in arguably the greatest city in the world, culturally, took us and our audiences to places we could only have imagined prior to the film festival’s screenings, panels, and events. Citing the wonderful work of these filmmakers is a wonderful way to complete that journey.”

The debut of the CineCina Film Festival’s highly curated world cinema fest included a main slate comprised of nine films, with five special presentations, representing 24 countries. The film festival literally had a city-wide footprint with screening locations spread throughout the city, CineCina films were presented at; AMC Lincoln Square 13, AMC Empire 25, SVA, DGA New York Theater, and French Institute Alliance Française.

The film festival opened with Suleiman’s Palestinian Oscar selection IT MUST BE HEAVEN, included a special 40th Anniversary screening of King Hu’s RAINING IN THE MOUNTAIN, appearances by Samuel Maoz with his classic LEBANON, Lu Zhang with FUKUOKA, and Choy with WHO KILLED VINCENT CHIN? Maoz also led a Master Class as part of his participation at CineCina FF. Other highlights included an inspired Halloween double feature presentation of Yinan Diao’s THE WILD GOOSE LAKE and John Woo’s influential classic THE KILLER.

Regarding the main slate of selections, CineCina Film Festival Co-Director of Programming Frank Yan, said, “It was important to us to establish the CineCina Film Festival as an event that would not simply program great films that might not be the frequent or obvious choices by other film festival, but also take an active role in bringing filmmakers together with audiences.”

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