This year’s FilMart marks the international sales debut of Beijing-based distributor Times Vision, which brings to Hong Kong a slate led by crime thriller “Savage” and animated feature “Nezha.” The company will be presenting nine live action films, including one documentary, and seven animated titles.
Times Vision is led by CEO Nathan Hao, who co-founded Chinese indie distributor Lemon Tree and led its international division before joining the newly established Times Vision in 2017. Times Vision imports foreign titles – primarily arthouse films, but it also has begun delving into the remake rights market – and is now getting into production as well. It is currently at work with Chinese partners on pre-production for a remake of 2016 Japanese Oscar entry “Her Love Boils Water.”
“We are famous for being good buyers of festival titles,” Hao told Variety. “TVOD is a new thing for Chinese audiences for foreign films. Streaming is a better platform for the kinds of films we have.” But as platforms begin to spend more making or acquiring content themselves, Times Vision is expanding into sales.
“Savage,” which won the New Currents Award at the 2018 Busan festival, is the debut of screenwriter-turned-director Cui Siwei. Starring Chen Chang (“The Grandmaster,” “The Assassin”) and Silver Bear winner Liao Fan (“Ash Is Purest White,” “Black Coal, Thin Ice”) and produced by Terence Chang, it tells the story of a detective and his faceoffs with a band of criminals in the snowy environs of Changbai Mountain, which stands between China and North Korea. Horgos Youth Enlight Pictures, Hehe Pictures and Helichenhuang Intl. Culture Media produce.
“Nezha” follows the eponymous mischievous Taoist child-deity, and is produced by the studios behind “Monkey King: Hero Is Back” and “Big Fish & Begonia.” It will be out in the second quarter of 2019.
Other films on Times Vision’s Hong Kong slate include Huang Bo’s directorial debut, “The Island,” which grossed more than $200 million last year in China; Tony Leung Ka-Fai’s directorial debut, “Midnight Diner”; “On the Balcony,” a drama starring it-girl Zhou Dongyu; and “Extraordinary Youth,” an experimental feature from director Xiang Guoqiang.
In the past year, Hao says that the company has acquired some 200 foreign titles for Chinese streaming distribution, among them an eclectic mix of prestige festival titles. At Berlin last year, it snapped up Silver Bear winners “Dovlatov” (costume and production design) and Paraguayan film “The Heiresses” (best actress and Alfred Bauer Prize), as well as Irish period drama “Black ’47” and four-hour Filipino musical “Season of the Devil.” At Venice, it acquired Olivier Assayas’ comedy “Non-Fiction,” starring Juliette Binoche, and at Cannes, Indian writer-director Rohena Gera’s “Sir” and Japanese romance “Asako I & II.” At Sundance, Times Vision nabbed Colombian thriller “Monos,” Sebastian Silva’s “Tyrel” and the Maggie Gyllenhaal-starring drama “The Kindergarten Teacher.”
Other titles purchased this past year include French iconoclast Bruno Dumont’s miniseries “Coincoin & the Extra-Humans”; “The Place,” directed by Italian Paolo Genovese (“Perfect Strangers”); Koji Fukada’s “The Man from the Sea”; and the Argentinian film “Rojo,” which last year won best director, actor and cinematography prizes at San Sebastian.
“The internet business changes really, really fast in China. Every two months there’s some new thing,” Hao said. “In the beginning, it was like we were leading the market, showing the foreign titles we had to the platforms. But now it’s like the audience is leading us to buy the things they need.”