Market spotlight importance of local fare

HONG KONG — Closer cooperation between Hong Kong and other regional markets, especially China, emerged as a major theme at the Hong Kong Film and TV Market (Filmart), which began Monday.

The focus was on showcasing the growing importance of Chinese cinema and the special role Hong Kong plays in allowing a way into the mainland market, particularly the growing number of cross-border co-productions.

Europeans are also bidding for an expanded role in the region, with Blighty and France both boasting a strong presence at Filmart.

Local shingle Salon hosted a forum chaired by industry veteran Fred Wang and addressed by China Film Foundation prexy Li Qiankuan. Li said China produced 426 films last year and production was increasing by 15% every year.

“We are developing quickly, yet we are still in the development stage. Co-productions have huge potential in China. We are not as big as Hollywood, but are growing each year, and Hong Kong is the pioneer of the Chinese film industry,” Li said.

He said China was still working hard to build enough screens to meet demand, and needed cooperation and assistance to address this.

That call for help is being heard in Hong Kong. Distrib Mei Ah and its sibling production company Big Media used Filmart to unveil a major strategy that includes building more theaters in China.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong helmer Peter Chan unveiled a three-year slate of 15 films with a total budget of $73 million for his Cinema Popular joint venture with Chinese filmmaker Huang Jianxin. First off the blocks will be “Bodyguards and Assassins” with Donnie Yen, Leon Lai, Wang Xueqi and Nicholas Tse, among others. Pic will be directed by Teddy Chan.

Situated slightly awkwardly between the Berlinale and Cannes fests, the 33rd Hong Kong Film Festival features 19 world bows amid 279 movies.

Local multihyphenate Jackie Chan was on hand Sunday to open the fest with the preem of his Chinese-language gangster thriller, “Shinjuku Incident,” which features the chopsocky star as a hitman for Japanese gangsters. It was part of a double bill with local pic “Night and Fog.”

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