Filmko, Fortissimo to coin Yang comedy

Filmko Films and Fortissimo will fully finance and distribute Chinese director Zhang Yang’s black comedy “Air.”

Deal was signed Tuesday at the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum.

Pic, about a Chinese farmer who tries to bring home the body of a friend who dies far from their hometown, is expected to have a budget of about $2.5 million, Filmko distribution prexy Dominic Yip said.

The Hong Kong-China co-production will be produced by Peter Loehr of Ming Prods. and Fortissimo’s Wouter Barendrecht. Lensing is expected to start in June for a Chinese New Year release in February 2007.

Fortissimo will handle distribution outside of Southeast Asia and China, Filmko in most Asian territories.

Pic is the fifth on which Fortissimo and Zhang have collaborated. Zhang makes films that have a message and have the potential to be commercial, Fortissimo co-chairman Michael Werner said.

For Filmko, however, project marks its first time working with a “new generation of Mainland directors,” Yip said.

Company just opened a Beijing office with about 10 staffers a month ago. “Filmko wants to do more cooperations with Chinese directors,” Yip said.

Filmko is finalizing negotiations with Liu Fen-dou for his pic “Part Ocean, Part Flame” and with helmer Zhang Yi-bai about an untitled project.

“Part Ocean, Part Flame” and “Air” were among seven projects that drew financing on the last day of the three-day Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum, which runs as part of FilMart.

Liu’s pic won the Hubert Bals Fund Award, worth E10,000 ($12,077), for most promising film project from a developing country.

“Air” director Zhang and Singapore’s Kelvin Tong both received a Technicolor Thailand Post-Production Award, worth $13,000, for projects with the highest potential for co-financing. Helmers must have directed at least one project and be willing to do post-production in Thailand.

The HAF Award for a Hong Kong project and $13,000 prize money went to Lawrence Gray’s “Fat Englishmen.”

Two awards were given for projects outside of Hong Kong: “132” by Singapore’s Royston Tan and “The Unspeakable Curse of the Ox Family,” helmed by Taiwan’s Su Chao-pin. Total shared award was $13,000.

The Rome Film Festival Award for innovative talent and $15,000 went to “Utopia,” by Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

In all, 25 projects were presented during this year’s co-production market. Projects hailed from Hong Kong, China, Iran, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more