The emerging art house film sector in China is to get a further boost from the launch of a $16 million (RMB100 million) specialized acquisition fund. The initiative is backed by five companies already operational in the sector.
The A.R.T. Project fund is intended to invest in 15 films by Chinese directorial talent over a period of five years. All are to be guaranteed Chinese theatrical release, international festival representation and overseas sales.
The backers include: Perfect Village Entertainment, the merged production operations of Perfect World and Village Roadshow in China; Hong Kong and Chinese-based distributor and exhibitor, Edko Films; Hong Kong producer Irresistible Films; Chinese marketing firm and website operator Maoyan Media, and state-owned distributor, Huaxia Film Distribution.
“The A.R.T. Project partners all agree that there is nothing more important than nurturing the new generation of Chinese filmmaking talent. We are up and running at full speed, with three releases confirmed for 2018, and look forward to bringing many exciting new films to audiences in China and beyond over the years to come” said Bill Kong, industry icon and head of Edko Films.
The first film to be released is “Walking Past the Future,” the drama directed by Li Ruijun. The film is set for theatrical release in China on May 17, 2018, almost exactly a year after its premiere in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section last year.
Two other titles, currently without release dates, are “Send Me to the Clouds,” Teng Congcong’s directorial debut, starring beloved character actress Chen Yao and popular TV star Hong Yuan; and “Poet,” directed by critically acclaimed Liu Hao, starring popular actors Song Jia and Zhu Yawen.
“Over the last few years we’ve been thrilled to witness the Chinese audience’s growing appreciation of quality filmmaking, which has led to the breakout success of several Chinese arthouse films. The time has come for us to join forces to unlock the enormous potential of this sector and help China’s young filmmakers grow and thrive,” said Ellen Eliasoph, CEO of Perfect Village.
China’s art house sector has struggled as the country’s film industry has sped into modernization. While fewer films are made as underground projects, among the remaining obstacles facing the sector are an obsession with mainstream commercial films, the lack of a dedicated art film circuit and continued censorship.
The lack of dedicated screens is being countered by the recent establishment of the National Alliance of Arthouse Cinemas, another public-private initiative that also includes Edko and Huaxia. The NAAC operates with both Chinese and imported titles.