The festival, founded in 1993, is featuring more than 380 movies from nearly 50 countries, according to organisers. But China dominates with 80 films, almost double the number by closest competitor the United States.
“The Shanghai International Film Festival has always focused on films outside the Hollywood film system,” Fu Wenxia, managing director of organiser Shanghai International Film and TV Festivals Co., told AFP.
Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, known to overseas audiences for her appearance in “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, stood next to Hong Kong Cantopop king Leon Lai on the red carpet.
Action star Jackie Chan slapped hands with journalists while former boxer Mike Tyson, who is guest starring in an upcoming Hong Kong film, made a surprise appearance in a tuxedo, shouting “Hello” in Chinese.
The Shanghai festival has earned a reputation for catering to movie fans while a similar event in Beijing which started in 2011 tends to attract bigger entertainment names and government officials.
But commercial hub Shanghai does not aim to compete with political centre Beijing to be China’s film capital, Fu said.
“The Shanghai International Film Festival in not in competition with the Beijing International Film Festival, or any other film festival worldwide,” she said by email.
“February is Berlin’s moment, April is Beijing’s moment, May is Cannes’ moment, and June belongs to Shanghai.”
Shanghai is offering some selections in line with the country’s political aims, including movies under the theme “On the Silk Road” as China pushes to build on the ancient trade routes on land and sea.
A group of films solely from the BRICS countries comes as China urges greater political and economy unity between Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa.
The festival will also commemorate the end of World War II, or as described by the official programme: “The Chinese People’s 70th Anniversary of the Victory of the Anti-Japanese War”.
Hollywood will be represented, including all six “Star Wars” films and more recent blockbusters such as “American Sniper” about US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and “Gone Girl” based on the novel of the same name.
US studios are keen to get a bigger piece of the Chinese market, the world’s second largest box office outside North America with revenue of $4.8 billion in 2014, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.
But foreign films entering China come under an annual quota of just 34 annually and face censorship by cultural authorities who excise content deemed politically sensitive or obscene.