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Locarno: Bridging the Dragon Initiative to Forge Europe/China Ties Gains Traction

LOCARNO — One year after Bridging the Dragon launched at Locarno, the groundbreaking initiative to forge closer ties between the European and Chinese film industries is back at the fest with directors and producer delegations from both sides to attend a first-of-its kind writing and production packaging workshop, which segues from its first session in Shanghai and comprises high-profile projects from both sides deemed suitable for co-production or co-financing.

These comprise Scandinavian teen romcom “True Beauty,” being produced by TrustNordisk and inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales and Malaysian-Chinese director Yoki Chin’s “King of Shadows,” an animated epic about a young king, depicted in shadow play, which is a dying Chinese craft.

“The idea was to be open to different kinds of situations,” says BTD head Sophie Bourdon. “Projects which have both Chinese and European elements. But, aside from that — which is not a prerequisite — the priority is for a filmmaker and a team to present something that can have an appeal for the other side’s audience.”

Bourdon cites Dutch family film “Gizmo,” about the adventures of an ambitious talking dog who is an advertising star, produced by Column Film. Though it doesn’t have anything Chinese, she sees it as having potential for crossover into China, where family outings to the multiplex are a major part of the cinemagoing experience.

After three days of sessions with writing and production tutors, the teams from China are now being immersed in the informal Locarno Industry Days experience to make connections with the Europeans.

As for European film industry people connecting with their Chinese counterparts, here’s some advice from BTD Project Manager Yingfan Ji:

“For the Europeans it’s story first; then script. In other words, the creative side. But in China we consider the whole package. When we try to figure out what kind of collaboration we are going to do with you guys, it will be like: ‘OK, what’s your target audience? What kind of genre? Budget? And how can we collaborate on casting, because casting is really really important in a Chinese film.’ Sounds like Hollywood.

The five BTD projects from Europe are:

– Scandinavian teen romcom “True Beauty,” being produced by TrustNordisk and inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales.

– Dutch family film “Gizmo,” about the adventurous journey of an ambitious talking dog who is an advertising star, produced by Column Film.

– France-U.K. film “The River Dragon Princess,” about a Chinese girl sent off to boarding school in Britain, produced by Christopher Granier-Deferre’s Poisson Rouge Pictures.

– British adventure drama “The Navigator,” produced by a U.K.-South African outfit, about the first arrival in East Africa of Chinese admiral Zheng He in 1435.

– German race car pic “The Speed Breed,” from Moviebrats Pictures, about an epic car rally across China.

The Chinese projects are:

– Political thriller “The Proving Ground,” from Thunder Communications Intl., about a washed-up Chinese reporter and a European biochemist who team up to investigate claims of a biological weapons attack on Chinese soil.

– Director Yiang Zhang’s “The Tribulation of a Chinese in China,” a funny fantasy/adventure pic inspired by Jules Verne.

– Chinese director Xiaoxin Yang’s “Tofu Cheesecake,” in which romance and food bring together a modern Chinese city girl and a happy Swiss farmer.

– Malaysian-Chinese director Yoki Chin’s “King of Shadows,” an animated heroic tale about a young king, depicted in shadow play, a dying Chinese craft.

– Director Jia Hu’s “Paris My Paradise,” about love and conflict dynamics between a Chinese and a Turkish family living in Paris.

Bridging the Dragon is supported by Creative Europe – MEDIA sub-program, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Italian Ministry of Culture (MIBACT), Netherlands Film Fund, BFI, Goethe-Institut China, D’Hive. Festival partners are the European Film Market, Locarno Film Festival and First Intl. Film Festival.

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