Leading Chinese film studio Huayi Bros. has begun sounding out international distributors in Berlin about director Guan Hu’s $80 million war film “800.” It will be completed by midsummer and is one of the most anticipated Chinese titles of the year.
Guan, who broke through to international and commercial success with 2015 gangster drama “Mr. Six,” is putting final touches on the film. Huayi’s pitch in Berlin focuses on the film’s fact-based narrative and the huge resources marshaled to deliver intense and realistic action. Filmed over eight months, it is the first Chinese feature to be shot with Imax digital cameras.
It’s one of just a handful of big-budget pictures generating buzz in China, where production has slowed in recent months. Dante Lam’s “Rescue,” about an intrepid Coast Guard team, is budgeted at $90 million.
The central narrative of “800” focuses on a group of Chinese soldiers and draft dodgers in 1937 who put up a four-day defense of a Shanghai warehouse complex just as Japanese forces are overwhelming China. The decision to make a stand at that location was intended both to stall the Japanese and to attract the attention of the foreign legations just across the river.
The technical crew on the film features a mixed Chinese and international team. It includes Chinese cinematographer Cao Yu (“Kekexili,” “Legend of the Demon Cat”) American action director Glenn Boswell (“The Matrix,” “I, Robot”) original music by the U.K.’s Rupert Gregson-Williams (“The Crown,” “Aquaman,” “Wonder Woman”) and Australia’s Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor Tim Crosbie (“X-Men: Days of Future Past”).
Guan made his directorial debut with 1994 film “Dirt” and is considered to be a so-called sixth generation Chinese director, similar in age to Wang Xiaoshuai and Wang Quan’an, whose films appear in Berlin this week. Guan’s subsequent films, including “Cow” and 2013’s “The Chef, the Actor, the Scoundrel,” earned him awards in Asia. But major international recognition eluded him until “Mr, Six,” which premiered at Venice and featured director Feng Xiaogang in an acting role, portraying a former gangster pulled out of retirement to save his son.