As China is still engaged in relief and reconstruction work following the Sichuan earthquake, the atmosphere of the opening day was low-key without the usual presence of international stars.
Zhang Ziyi, Jackie Chan and Zhou Xun were among the major Chinese stars attending the opening ceremony.
To echo the post-earthquake mood, the theme of the 11th SIFF is set as 'The Power of Filmmakers for The Light of Life'. And the SIFF organising committee has also decided to simplify the awards ceremony of the Jin Jue Award, the main competition of the festival, to be held on the closing night.
Over 200 local stars attended the red carpet of the opening ceremony, which wastransformed into the 'Walk of Love' to express care for people in the disaster area. No overseas stars appeared on the red carpet.
The local stars included Zhou Xun, Gui Lunmei and Zhang Yuqi from Tsui Hark's upcoming She Ain't Mean; Liu Ye and Gao Yuanyuan from Nanking, Nanking!, and Donnie Yen, Qi Yuwu and Chen Kun from Painted Skin. Each of the stars held a card in the shape of a heart, on which they wrote good wishes for the disaster area.
During the opening ceremony, Zhang Ziyi was presented with an award for 'Outstanding Contribution to Chinese Film' while veteran director Qin Yi was given a lifetime achievement award. A special Lifetime Achievement Award was also given to late UK filmmaker Anthony Minghella, who was originally appointed chairman of the 11th SIFF before he passed away in March. Minghella's wife Carolyn Choa took the award.
Apart from the 'Light of Life' theme, sports and environmental protection are two major themes of the festival.
Dream Weavers - Beijing 2008, a documentary about how Beijing has prepared for the Olympics over the past the seven years, kicked off the festival as the opening film. Produced by state-owned Central Studio of News Reels Production, the film stars Chinese hurdle star Liu Xiang. The closing film will be 2005 French title Merry Christmas.