Regional contenders

China-Hong Kong collaborations make strong fest showing

HONG KONG — China is bringing a strong lineup to the Cannes Film Festival, marked by collaborations between the mainland and Hong Kong as the boundary between the two regions blurs.

China has “Shanghai Dreams” in competition. Pic is by Wang Xiaoshuai, a member of the country’s sixth-generation of filmmakers. The film is produced by Pi Li, and backed by Stellar Magamedia Group, Debo Films and Kingwood.

Wang will be hoping for similar success to 2001’s Berlin Silver Bear honoree “Beijing Bicycle,” which hasn’t yet received government approval to be shown in local cinemas. It was reported that Wang’s film, and fellow underground filmmaker Jia Zhangke’s “The World,” is likely to gain approval soon under revised censorship rules.

Hong Kong’s Johnnie To has his first pic in competition, “Election.” Triad drama co-stars Simon Yam, Tony Leung Ka Fai and Louis Koo, and was produced by To and Dennis Law for Milkyway Image. The film focuses on one of the oldest triads in Hong Kong as it attempts to elect a new leader. Milkyway says that the initial lengthy epic has been cut down to 102 minutes. Paris-based Celluloid Dreams is handling international sales.

Mainland box office champ Feng Xiaogang’s “Cell Phone” and “A World Without Thieves,” a co-production of mainland Huayi Brothers and Hong Kong’s Media Asia, will preem at the market. “Cell Phone,” with Hong Kong’s Andy Lau and Taiwan’s Rene Liu, scored $6.6 million at the local B.O. “A World Without Thieves” reaped $15 million, according to figures from the South China Morning Post.

Jeffery Chan, head of distribution and sales at Media Asia Group, which reps the two titles, says as more mainland and Hong Kong co-productions are released, it will become more difficult to label a movie by its country of origin.

“We should call them Chinese-language films,” Chan says. “Under the one country-two systems idea, Hong Kong is part of China. From a national point of view, these co-productions are seen as domestic productions. Basically, 90% of the Hong Kong films involve mainland production.”

Chan cites “Initial D,” by “Infernal Affairs”‘ Alan Mak and Andrew Lau, as an example. The $12 million adaptation of a Japanese car-racing comic is considered a Chinese production. An invitation-only market screening for the pic will be held by Media Asia.

Media Asia also will handle the latest from Huang Jianxin, social satire drama “Gimme Kudos.” On the arthouse side, Fortissimo Films will be repping “Sunflower,” by Zhang Yang.

Wouter Barendrecht, co-chairman of Fortissimo, is optimistic about this year’s market, noting the success of Chinese-language films such as “House of Flying Daggers.”

An eight-minute trailer of Chen Kaige’s martial arts epic “The Promise” will unspool. Film is a co-production by China Film Group; 21st Century Shengkai Film; Show East; and Moonstone Entertainment, the film’s international sales company.

(Vivienne Chow is an entertainment reporter at the South China Morning Post.)

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