CJ makes First Cut with pix

Studio scores rights 6 Chinese-lingo pics

PUSAN — Local major CJ Entertainment has acquired all Korean rights to the six low-budget Chinese-language features made under the Focus First Cuts label.

First Cuts is an initiative conceived by superstar Andy Lau’s Hong Kong production shingle Focus Films. Hatched in alliance with News Corp. offshoot Star Movies, it gave young helmers from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore freedom of working with digital equipment and low budget.

Move is trumpeted by CJ as promoting new talent in Asia, which has skedded release of all six titles from early next 2007. Company says it is already in talks with Focus concerning the next installment, Focus First Cuts Volume 2, which has yet to be finalized and is targeted to launch in the middle of 2007.

“Focus First Cuts has grown from a small independent project to a project with very established partners like CJ Entertainment and Star Chinese Movies,” said Lau, who is honored this week as Pusan’s Asian Filmmaker of the Year.

The first of the slate to be completed was “The Shoe Fairy,” which bowed in the New Currents competition at Pusan last year. It has also yielded “Crazy Stone,” a crime caper helmed by Ning Hao, which was a $3 million (RMB23 million) surprise hit in China and is set as Pusan’s closing film.

Three others — “My Mother Is a Belly Dancer,” “Love Story” and “Rain Dogs” — get their Korean preems this week in Pusan’s Window on Asian Cinema section.

“It is amazing how well the industry, media and audiences have responded to the films of Focus: First Cuts and we are proud to be working once again with CJ Entertainment on a regional project,” Daniel Yu, COO of Focus and Pusan jury member, said. Focus and CJ previously worked together on Thai thriller “Invisible Waves.” 

Focus is also developing as a pioneering Hong Kong distributor of Asian movies. Lineup this year includes Patrick Tam’s “After This Our Exile,” Tan Pin Pin’s “Singapore Gaga” and Lam Tse-Chung’s “I’ll Call You.”

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