North American rights secured for Chinese epic

National Geographic Entertainment has picked up North American rights to Lu Chuan’s “City of Life and Death.”

It’s the second pickup this year for Nat Geo’s newly recast theatrical distribution unit. NGE also acquired Cherien Dabis’ Sundance fave “Amreeka,” which has a platform release on Sept. 4.

“City,” about the 1937 Japanese occupation of Nanking, bowed in mainland China in April and became the year’s second highest opener there after “Red Cliff II.”

The cast is made up of Chinese and Japanese thesps, including Liu Ye, Fan Wei, Gao Yuanyuan and Hideo Nakaizumi.

The black-and-white epic makes its international debut as a special presentation at the Toronto Film Festival next month.

NGE’s relationship with writer-director Lu goes back to his last film, “Mountain Patrol: Kekexili,” which unspooled at the National Geographic All Roads Festival and won several prizes on the global fest circuit in 2004-05. NGE co-distributed the pic domestically with IDP/Samuel Goldwyn Films.

NGE prexy Adam Leipzig first screened “City” at the Cannes film market in May.

Plans are for “City” to be released later this year or in early 2010. NGE secured a portion of the P&A for the film from IDG China Media Fund, which is part of U.S. venture capital company Intl. Data Group.

Pic’s producers include the Beijing Film Studio, China Film Group, Stellar Megamedia, Jiang Su Broadcasting, Media Asia and Shanghai Bailiang Investment.

NGE’s National Geographic Films co-distributed the 2005 hit “March of the Penguins” with Warner Independent Pictures.

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