Cannes: Real-Life Drama ‘Chinese Pilot’ Flown to Market by Distribution Workshop

The Captain
Courtesy of Distribution Workshop

Sales agent and producer Distribution Workshop has picked up international sales duties on “The Chinese Pilot,” an action drama that is expected to be one of the biggest Chinese films of this year. Sales begin this week on the margins of the Cannes Film Festival.

The film employs Hong Kong’s Andrew Lau (“The Flock,” “Infernal Affairs”) as director, and Zhang Hanyu (“Operation Mekong,” ”The Taking of Tiger Mountain”) as civilian pilot Captain Liu Chuanjian.

The film is a cinematic portrayal of one of the most miraculous emergency landings in contemporary Chinese aviation history. The incident happened this time last year, after the windshield of a Sichuan Airlines A319 plane shattered in flight at 32,000 feet above the Tibetan Plateau. The plane lost much of its automated controls and caused the cabin to depressurize.

The co-pilot was partially sucked out of the plane and was saved only by his seat belt. Liu managed to regain control of the plane, flying solo with only manual controls, before bringing it and its 119 passengers safely home.

The film was made on a budget of $60 million through Bona Film Group. It is now in post-production, and poised for a September 2019 theatrical release in China.

The film is in line with a trend towards patriotic content in China that is only partially connected to the 70th anniversary this year of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Other recent patriotically themed films, including “Wolf Warrior II” and the recent sci-fi hit “The Wandering Earth,” have combined stirring plots with high-quality effects and visuals to become genuinely popular with mainland Chinese audiences.