In a charming outdoor setting at Raleigh Studios lot in Hollywood, California, amid glowing linen tents and cozy clusters of comfy couches, a handsome crowd of cinephiles lined up to join the Hollywood Film Festival (HFF), which kicked its new season off with a bang over the past weekend.
The festival, under the direction of Chairman Bradford Parks and CEO David Knott, has undergone an important transformation over the last couple of years to become a younger, cooler one dedicated to the principles of diversity, inclusion and global outreach.
"We see ourselves as the United Nations for film festivals," Parks told Xinhua.
"For us, it's not just about hosting an action-packed week of high-profile screenings and VIP parties. It's about providing new talent from around the globe with real access to Hollywood and building long-term relationships with our global partners that last a lifetime," Parks said.
"More than just a competition, HFF strives to create relationships between filmmakers and producers and representatives, fashioning an open environment in an industry that is experiencing significant change across all sectors," reported Variety, a renowned American entertainment news outlet.
HFF is now fired up with their new mission. "We'd like to make it possible for every talented kid in every country in the world to have a chance to come to Hollywood and take a seat at the VIP table," Knott told Xinhua.
It is making strides toward that laudable goal. As a significant step toward creating opportunities in Hollywood for filmmakers of many nations, HFF established high-level relations with China via the China Film Association, the International Creative Coalition, and American Hollywood Television & Film Media group.
Items under discussion were cooperative opportunities in film, masterclasses and cultural events with an eye to serving as a positive bridge between U.S. filmmakers and their Chinese counterparts.
At the 2019 Opening Night this past weekend, HFF announced its second official international alliance with the members of the Cannes Film Festival's African Pavilion, led by the Pavilion's President and Founder Karina Barclais.
Newly-appointed Kenyan Consul General to Los Angeles Njeri Karago told Xinhua: "We welcome this opportunity to work with HFF to develop the Kenyan and African film industries to the next level."
"We are at a turning point," Barclais told Xinhua. "There will come a time when white directors don't look for a black actor or a white actor, they will look for an artist who can play the part. But we still have a long way to go."
"As a writer and filmmaker who has been working to improve the representation of women and blacks in the media, we hope this association with HFF will help us tell our own authentic stories," said award-winning author and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga of Zimbabwe.
She said that Hollywood tends to make stereotypical African stories or stories about slavery. "We are African filmmakers, but we are also individual artists with our own unique voices who want to make films about ordinary individuals with their own strengths, fears, and aspirations."
The HFF panel on the state of the African film industry also touched on the striking similarities between the African film industry now and the Chinese film industry just 15 years ago.
In 2004, China's box office was a little over 20 million U.S. dollars, but now its box office is almost 9 billion dollars, according to HFF's Grand Jury.
"Africa has 1.8 billion people. With the right industry infra-structure and government support, there is nothing to stop Africa from achieving the same success," it said.
HFF also hosted compelling panels on topics such as the pros and cons of social media influencers, and the future of AR/VR/XR tech-driven media.