Pics about the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic are being readied in China and Hong Kong, the two territories hardest hit by the killer, pneumonia-like virus.
Bizarrely, Hong Kong’s offering is a comedy from Mandarin Films. “The City of SARS” will start shooting in two weeks for an end-of-July release.
The film features three stories: a tribute to medical workers; a love story about a girl who loses her boyfriend when residents of her apartment building are quarantined; and a businessman who goes bankrupt because of the outbreak and attempts suicide.
Steve Cheng will direct the film, which has a budget of less than $1 million, and its cast will include popular local stand-up comedians Dayo Wong and Cheung Tat-ming.
Meanwhile, Chinese thesp Gong Li (“Zhou Yu’s Train”) is considering playing a nurse who dies fighting to save SARS patients.
Shooting is due to start by May 12 and the film will be released in July, according to officials from the Senwei Audio-Visual Company, the investors, who have yet to announce the director.
The script was written over three days at the end of April and the working title translates as “In the Name of Nightingale.”
“This movie is part of the fight against SARS so I’ll given it serious consideration,” Gong Li told the Beijing Times newspaper.
Gong Hanling (“Sparkling Fox”) has already agreed to play a patient and Zhang Fengyi, who starred opposite Gong Li in Chen Kaige’s “Farewell My Concubine,” has been invited to play the nurse’s husband.
Overseas students studying Chinese in local universities have auditioned for the role of James, an English tourist who brings the infection to the hospital. Rumors persist in China that SARS did not originate in Guangdong Province as generally accepted, but was brought by foreigners travelling through Vietnam.
A TV drama about SARS, shooting in late May, is also planned as part of the national campaign to promote awareness of the disease.
Veteran helmer Xie Fei (“A Mongolian Tale”, “Black Snow”) is recovering in Beijing’s Ditan Hospital after catching SARS on April 7 during a check-up at another hospital. Xie is the only celebrity in China reported to have caught the virus, which has infected over 4,000 people in China around 190 of whom have died.