Hong Kong studio Edko Films has picked up international rights to “One Second,” the newest movie by top Chinese director Zhang Yimou. The film will have its world premiere in competition in Berlin, it was announced this week.
“One Second” is pitched as Zhang’s personal love letter to cinema, and as a return to his auteur roots after a string of big-budget films including “The Great Wall,” and the recent “Shadow.” The story evolves from the moment when an enigmatic film reel spawns an unlikely friendship between a fugitive and a homeless girl.
The film stars Zhang Yi (“Operation Red Sea”) and Fan Wei (“I Am Not Madame Bovary”). It was shot in remote mountainous locations in mid-summer last year, between the end of production on “Shadow” and that film’s triumphant Venice and Toronto outings.
“Shadow” was produced by Perfect Village, a joint venture between Chinese games to film group Perfect World and Australia’s Village Roadshow, and financed by LeVision Pictures, the movie-making offshoot of ambitious technology and entertainment conglomerate LeEco. Zhang had also been set as artistic director across LeVision’s slate of pictures. However, since LeEco ran into severe financial difficulties, it has unwound many of its activities.
“One Second” is backed by Huanxi Media, a fast-moving production company founded by entrepreneur Dong Ping, whose film credits include “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Dong’s business track record includes the reinvention of stock market-listed ChinaVision, which was later acquired by e-commerce giant Alibaba and became Alibaba Pictures Group. Huanxi, which also has a Hong Kong stock market listing, is built around new generation directors Ning Hao and Xu Zheng, who are among its major shareholders.
Huanxi’s ability to issue shares and raise substantial finance has helped it build up a stellar roster of mainland Chinese and Hong Kong directing talent, including Wong Kar-wai and Peter Chan Ho-sun. In 2018, the company was involved as producer on Jia Zhangke’s Cannes competition film “Ash is Purest White” and surprise smash hit “Dying to Survive.”
Over the Chinese New Year holidays, which overlap with the Berlin festival, Huanxi will release “Crazy Alien,” the latest film to be directed by Ning. It was picked up for release in China by a consortium distributors who provided a guarantee of $415 million (RMB2.8 billion) theatrical box office receipts.
“Our strategy of only focusing on the very best directors is rewarded by the selection of ‘One Second” for competition in Berlin,” said Steven Xiang, Huanxi CEO.
No theatrical release date has yet been set for “One Second.” Edko is handling worldwide rights.