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‘Still Life’ Remake Poised for Japan-China Fund Backing

A Japanese-language remake of British drama “Still Life” could be the first film to flow from a fund created to support Chinese-Japanese joint productions.

The fund is operated by WeF Cultural Investment Media, a company founded earlier this year with the backing of government bodies in Beijing and Qingdao — the Chinese coastal city which boasts vast studios built by Wanda and now owned by Sunac.

Unveiled on the first day of the TIFFCOM rights market, an adjunct to next week’s Tokyo International Film Festival, the WeFmedia fund is looking to back two films from long-standing production company Sedic International, according to WeFmedia executive Watanabe Masashiro.

The fund is intended to take advantage of and facilitate use of the China-Japan film co-production treaty that was signed last year. Masahiro listed factors including significant differences in production system, scale of market, and size of budget as obstacles that hinder joint production between the two neighbors and sometime rivals.

The fund would provide the kind of financial visibility required by Japan’s risk averse production committee system and smooth out payments. It aims to start with JPY1 billion ($9.2 million) of capital and invest in up to four films per year, for a five-year period. It may call up additional financing when resources fall below pre-determined levels.

Directed by Uberto Pasolini, “Still Life” is a portrait of a painstaking and obsessive man who tracks down the families of people who die alone and without a will. It was released in 2013 and won a cluster of prizes at the Venice festival that year, including the Horizons Award.

(Marking a curious thematic connection, Sedic is headed by veteran producer Toshiaki Nakazawa, who made the 2008 Oscar-winning film “Departures” about an unemployed cellist who prepared dead bodies for funerals.)

It is currently rare for Chinese companies to invest in film productions that are not originated in China, the U.S., or Hong Kong. Watanabe says that “Still Life” is suitable for financial co-production, despite it not expecting to shoot in China or feature prominent Chinese cast. Production is set for 2020, under the direction of Nobuo Mizuta, with delivery in time for the Berlin film festival in early 2021.

A second film from Sedic was not named, but was described as being a more natural co-production, involving cultural cross-border cooperation at development, writing and production stages. The companies said that Sony Pictures’ local unit in Japan, has given conditional distribution support to both films.

Sedic has been unusual among Japanese companies in assembling several films as co-productions and making films that regularly travel to overseas festivals. Credits include “Zatoichi: The Last” and “I Am Ichihashi: Journal of a Murderer.” Sedic was also recently involved in producing period television movie “Stranger.” The film was made for Japanese public broadcaster NHK, in 8K format, with 95% of its location shooting taking place in China.

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