Hangzhou-based Chinese production company Midnight Blur Films is poised to make a splash as it attends FilMart for the first time this year, with three titles selected for HAF and three others screening in the market, two of which will compete in the Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival . Under the name Parallax Films, it also is involved in international sales and distribution.
The company was co-founded by Cao Liuying, Zhao Jin and Xu Jiahan, academics in literature, philosophy and anthropology, respectively, who met in 2015 while studying abroad in Europe. The three first started a WeChat account for criticism called DeepFocus, which has since become one of China’s major platforms for such writing.
The trio became more interested in getting involved in the film industry after attending foreign festivals. In 2016, the group was hired to do promotion for black-and-white Chinese arthouse films “Mr. No Problem” (directed by Mei Feng) and “The Summer Is Gone” (directed by Zhang Dalei). Other such projects eventually led them to set up Parallax, registering it in Beijing.
A year and a half later, their current Hangzhou-based investor Hangzhou East Wave Group asked them to move down to Zhejiang province, where that company name was already taken — thus leading to their second moniker, Midnight Blur.
“Vanishing Days,” the first title the company produced, and “3 Adventures of Brooke,” which stars veteran French actor Pascal Greggory, were selected to take part in the Young Cinema Competition at the Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival this year. These two films and a third, “Ode to the Goose,” will have market screenings during HAF. The latter, by Korean-Chinese director Zhang Lu, premiered at Busan last year.
Three of the 23 projects selected to participate in HAF this year are produced by Midnight Blur, accounting for half of the projects invited from China. They include “Who Is Sleeping on My Pillow?”, “12×4” and “The Priest in the Village.”
New titles on deck include “All About ING,” currently in post-production, which depicts the daily life of an ordinary Cantonese family in which the father is diagnosed with cancer right as his son is about to go abroad for college; and thriller “In Search of Echo,” the first feature film by director Zhang Chi, recently selected to compete in the Moscow Intl. Film Festival.
“Our background is quite unique. We’re coming entirely from a background outside the film industry but because we started with criticism, I think we can be more daring,” Cao told Variety. “We are perhaps not quite like the other companies who put commercial value first. When we decide whether or not to work with a film, our first thoughts are still definitely coming more from a critic’s perspective.”
As the company matures, however, it is “adjusting,” Cao explained. “We’re starting to take things on even if a movie isn’t our absolute favorite but it rounds out our slate in an interesting way.”
The firm has one full-time employee in Beijing and several working part-time in New York, Paris and Tokyo. DeepFocus continues to operate via a separate, mostly volunteer team, but the company also leverages it as a channel to promote its own projects.