Ivanhoe Commits to China’s Wu Tianming Fund

"The average American has no understanding of China," says billionaire founder.

Robert Friedland of Ivanhoe Pictures
Patrick Frater

SHANGHAIIvanhoe Pictures, the film funding and production offshoot of Canadian mining giant Ivanhoe, has committed to co-financing and co-managing a new fund aimed at supporting young Chinese film-makers.

The Wu Tianming Fund was named after Wu, a long-standing film-director who was frequently regarded as a father figure within the Chinese industry, and godfather to the ‘fifth generation’ of directors such as Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige.

The fund was announced Sunday (June 15) at the Shanghai International Film Festival with Wu’s daughter Wu Yanyan, Ivanhoe’s billionaire owner Robert Friedland and former head of SARFT Zhang Pimin as signatories.

No details of its scale or operations were revealed, though it is expected to offer student bursaries and scholarships and back promising individuals.

Other benefactors also included Shanghai Film Group head Ren Zhonglun.

“Our group has been in Asia since 1981 in mining, oil and gas. Now we want to mine not silver and gold, but great stories and people and change the world of cinema, and we want to do that by walking in the footsteps of Wu Tianming,” said Friedland.

“We want to assist China’s soft power, we want to develop a vibrant young cinema in China. The average American has no understanding whatsoever of China. We’d like to create a young generation to tell their stories on a world stage. We can make history as well as make money.”

Friedland has backed Ivanhoe Pictures, the brainchild of executive John Penotti, with over $100 million of co-investment commitments to the slate of Fox International Productions, as well as a growing slate of stand-alone productions in Asia.

Asked whether Ivanhoe’s financial commitment to the Wu Tianming Fund was additional to its production slate or would garner other benefits such as a first look deal, Friedland told Variety: “We are doing this in a very Chinese way.”