50 Cent

Rap musicians 50 Cent (pictured), Timbaland and Eminem and New York Knicks basketball player Carmelo Anthony are among the unlikely U.S. investors behind “Black Coal, Thin Ice,” the cutting edge Chinese film which won the Golden Bear at Berlin this year.

They were corralled into backing the film by New York-based Daniel Victor of Boneyard Entertainment. Through its Boneyard Entertainment China offshoot, it was a financier and co-producer of “Black Coal.” The lead producer is China’s Jiangsu Omnijoi Movie Co.

The film, which is unusually dark by Chinese standards, and depicts a former policeman and a mystery woman on the trail of a serial killer, releases this week in China.

Victor says the high-profile investors share a long-term vision of building a film company focused on the world’s most exciting and quickly-evolving market.

“We were all passionate about the idea of building a film business in China,” says Victor. “China is a fascinating country, the culture and history, and it is now the second-largest market for films in the world after the U.S. Their film industry and box office are growing astronomically.”

As the Chinese film market has grown a wide variety of foreign companies have made various attempts to establish a foothold. They range from Hollywood studios, which have tried studio and indie-level incursions; a handful of other major companies which have launched productions aimed at a local Chinese audiences; and a scattering of foreign indies. The independents for the most part work in China on a project-by-project basis.

Omnijoi and Boneyard China, however, now have the beginnings of a slate together. They will start production in May on another Chinese picture, with a third film going into pre-production later this year.

Separately Boneyard China was last year certified by the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) as an approved co-production partner for Chinese companies.

Starting from 1996, Boneyard Entertainment previously produced and financed nine features in the U.S. and U.K., including the Academy Award-winning “Sling Blade,” “Henry Fool,” and the Helen Mirren and Clive Owen-starring “Greenfingers.”

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