The three-day Videocon IIFA Weekend kicked off in Macau today with the aim of expanding the global audience for Indian cinema into China and other East Asian markets.

Overseas markets accounted for 9.8% of the Indian film industry’s $2.3bn income in 2008, but Indian films rarely have commercial releases in Greater China.

Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, when China and India had strong diplomatic ties as fellow socialist countries, Bollywood films were regularly shown in mainland Chinese cinemas – but they disappeared when the Sino-Indian border war started in 1962.

Hoping to rectify that, the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA), which celebrates the tenth anniversary of its itinerant awards this year, selected the Venetian Macau resort as the location of the 2009 IIFA weekend.

Festivities get underway today (June 11) with the IIFA green carpet, to be graced by Bollywood superstars such as Amitabh Bachchan, and the Zaia Cirque Du Soleil show.

The three-day schedule also includes the one-day FICCI IIFA Global Business Forum, which will focus on trade options between India and China; a fashion show featuring heartthrob Hrithik Roshan; a workshop with Oscar-winning composer AR Rahman, and the awards themselves which are the grand finale on Saturday night.

Bachchan’s daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai is scheduled to perform at the awards along with Anil Kapoor’s daughter Sonam Kapoor. Audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the awards are voted for by the Indian film industry and audiences of Indian cinema around the world.

There will also be promotional activity around upcoming Hindi releases such as Jail, Do Knot Disturb, Kaminey and Shortkut, which will hit Indian cinemas over the summer following the resolution of the two-month producers’ strike. 

Meanwhile, to celebrate the IIFA weekend’s tenth anniversary, the event has introduced the Golden Decade Honours which will award five prizes to reflect the best of Indian cinema over the past ten years.

The first IIFAs were held in at the Millennium Dome in London in 2000 and they’ve also touched down in the Netherlands, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai and Bangkok.

Highlighting the size and breadth of the global Hindi film market, they have a global viewership of around 600 million.