Chinese director Feng Xiaogang is busy bolstering his patriotic credentials, revealing that his next film will be about Communist Party history even as he aggressively seeks to douse rumors that authorities plan to fine him 2 billion yuan ($288 million) for tax evasion.
His next venture will be a movie about the 70th anniversary of the founding Of the People’s Republic of China, Feng wrote late Tuesday night on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform. Construction for the new set has begun in Movie Town Haikou, a production site and tourist theme park on the tropical island of Hainan, jointly owned by Feng and his producer, Huayi Brothers Media Corporation.
He described the set as “a towering city,” posting photos of construction progress that showed huge buildings swaddled in scaffolding. He said he hoped to recreate the vibe of Beijing in the 1950s and ‘60s, constructing an old drum tower street, a railway station, a cathedral, and numerous Soviet-style edifices. “Mixing and matching new and old Beijing to recover the memories of childhood. Proud to be a filmmaker,” Feng wrote.
Feng’s latest film, 2017’s coming-of-age flick “Youth,” also dove into recent Chinese history to tell the story of young people growing up during the Cultural Revolution as members of the People’s Liberation Army performance troupe.
Chinese movies released on the mainland are heavily pre-vetted by censors, and films dealing with political topics — especially those that reflect on the ruling Communist Party — receive particularly careful scrutiny.
Production for Feng’s new film comes at a time when movie industry figures are facing additional pressure and uncertainty in the wake of a tax scandal involving his A-list collaborator Fan Bingbing, fined nearly $70 million and forced to publicly apologize for fraud last month.
Feng was again drawn into the fallout from the incident on Saturday by a Weibo user who claimed it would “soon be announced” that authorities would fine him 2 billion yuan. The user, verified by the platform as the chairman of the Beijing Yintai’an Investment Consulting Company, later added elsewhere that his information had come from a dinner between friends over the weekend attended by the heads of the country’s tax administration and ministry of finance.
Feng himself shot back by sarcastically dismissing the user’s credibility. “Two billion is too little; it ought to at least be ten billion. These big social media accounts are really willing to commit crimes,” he told Chinese media.
On Tuesday, his lawyers issued a statement saying that they would seek legal action against the Weibo user, whose comment was “completely fabricated and ill-intentioned” and had “severely damaged Mr. Feng Xiaogang’s public image, disturbed his regular work and life, and also taken a huge emotional toll.”
Feng has a long-standing feud with Cui Yongyuan, the fast-talking television host who first posted documents that revealed a common tax–evasion scheme and led to Fan’s rapid fall from grace. Cui took issue with Feng’s 2003 hit film “Cell Phone” starring Fan, saying it was loosely based on his life but made him look bad.