Chan bridges H.K., China divide

'Hell' is swell for Mainland and region

BEIJING Peter Chan unveiled a slayer of demons to highlight the growing cooperation between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong when he introduced “Jung Ku — The Man From 18th Hell” at Cannes this week.

The fantasy adventure, to be helmed by Chan, is one of four projects that Cinema Popular, a shingle formed jointly by Chan, mainland Chinese group PolyBona and helmer Huang Jiangxin, is set to complete next year.

Cinema Popular is one of a growing number of ventures bridging Hong Kong, which reverted to China in 1997 but is technically self-ruled, and mainland China.

Despite the global recession, China’s film market is growing, largely thanks to improved access to cinemas. Hong Kong filmmakers and their mainland Chinese counterparts cooperate regularly on co-productions or on wholly Chinese films. Chan said at the launch of Cinema Popular he hoped the shingle would make production easier and speed up logistics and regulatory issues. Greater synergies also allow for bigger budgets.

The $22 million “Jung Ku” is set in a time when humans lived alongside gods and demons. The title character is inspired by Zhong Kui, a mythological figure who protects mankind by killing ghosts and demons.

The first pic to emerge from the Cinema Popular stable is the Teddy Chan-helmed “Bodyguards and Assassins,” formerly known as “Dark October,” which is currently lensing in Shanghai with Donnie Yen, Leon Lai, Nicholas Tse (who has shaved his head for the role), Eric Tsang and Hu Jun.

The $15 million pic focuses on the day that popular 20th leader Sun Yat-sen returned to Hong Kong, and is expected to be released in December.

Other pics the shingle is working include “The Flying Guillotines,” which features Dante Lam at the helm, serial-slasher pic “Queens Road Ripper,” and a financial crisis comedy, “The God of Wealth.”

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