Chinese to be here shooting ‘Be There’

Pic to start shooting in Pasadena later this month

BEIJING — The first mainland Chinese film to be shot entirely in the United States is about to start production in Los Angeles.

Feng Xiaogang, one of the most commercially successful film and TV directors working in China today, will start production on “Be There or Be Square” later this month in Pasadena.

Feng was also the first Chinese director to shoot a TV drama in the U.S., when he shot “Beijingers in New York” in 1992.

“Be There” is a romantic comedy along the lines of “When Harry Met Sally” and stars top actor Ge You (“To Live”) and one of the hottest actresses working in China, Xu Fan.

The picture is a production by Forbidden City Film and the Beijing Film Studio, with total investment of 11 million yuan ($1.35 million), probably the most expensive comedy ever made by a Chinese filmmaker.

Feng’s last film, “Party A, Party B,” came out earlier this year and quickly set all-time box office records in Beijing, earning more than $1.23 million in receipts. Only “Titanic” has outperformed the film in the Chinese capital.

Feng said he hopes “Be There or Be Square,” which is due to come out in early 1999, can clear $1.84 million in Beijing, adding that he is concentrating on making films that people want to watch in theaters.

“Chinese film has a lot of problems, including acting, production methods and absence of artistic elements,” Feng said. “But the biggest problem is moving the industry toward commercialization. If we don’t make films that people want to see, it’s pointless to talk about the rest.”

The film could mark a turning point in Chinese cinema as more and more Chinese directors and producers look overseas for interesting material. Several other film and TV projects are planned for the U.S. and other countries later this year.

The screenplay for “Be There or Be Square” was written by Feng and Gu Xiaoyang, a native of China who moved to the U.S. several years ago.

Feng is also trying to revive an earlier film, “Papa,” which was never released in China due to censorship problems. He said he hopes that film can be shown sometime later this year. “Papa” was a collaboration between Feng and well-known writer Wang Shuo.