Michelle Yeoh and Daniel Wu

Michelle Yeoh and Daniel Wu talk up the Far East’s biz prospects as film producers

The Berlinale is the venue for red-carpet screenings, rights-sales efforts and endless rounds of press interviews.

But when all the junketing is done and the well-rehearsed soundbites have been played out, some of Asia’s top stars drop their masks and turn into remarkably passionate producers.

Asian stars such as Michelle Yeoh and Daniel Wu slip seamlessly into producer mode with a concerned eye about the direction the Asian industry is taking after speaking about their films.

Yeoh, in town with Culinary Cinema title “Final Recipe,” said the Gina Kim-directed film is authentically Asian. “It accurately reflects Asian traditions, patriarchy and the conflict between generations, old and new.”

Yeoh, however, is increasing her role as producer. Anexs, Yeoh’s production company in her native Malaysia is developing a range of pictures and recently held a script competition in conjunction with government film regulatory agency Finas. “There is too much thinking within the box,” she said. “Even if Malaysian cinema remains essentially local, we need to encourage producers to think bigger and better quality, to involve our neighbors in Indonesia and Singapore.”

She also co-owns Jelly Bean Pictures, a documentary distributor operated by old pal Sabrina Chen. Yeoh is on the management board of the recently opened Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios and does not hesitate to trumpet the possibilities that the new studios, and financial incentives present.

“It would be great if we could bring ‘Crouching Tiger’ (sequel) to Malaysia. It is already good that we have (the Weinstein Co.’s) ‘Marco Polo’ in Malaysia.”
She said production on “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II: Green Destiny” is scheduled to begin in June.

Wu, who’s toplining Panorama picture “That Demon Within,” said, “The Chinese film industry is still trying to find its identity. After 10 years of period and martial-arts films that even the Chinese stopped watching, last year was the year of light romantic comedies. But that cannot be the only thing you serve up.

“A lot of the fifth- and sixth-generation Chinese directors have come through the Beijing Film School and have not really learned how to be commercial.”

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