Hong Kong’s FilMart will be a coming out of sorts for China’s Lian Ray Pictures, which will be operating as a sales company at a major film rights market for the first time.

The company is representing rights to “Sister,” a mainland Chinese drama about a young woman who, after the sudden death of her two parents, learns that she has a much younger brother and that she needs to step into the mother role.

“Until now, our company identity at film markets has largely been as a buyer, looking for distribution rights and remake rights. But with our new 2021 strategy, Lian Ray Global will also be handling international distribution of our own productions,” a company spokesman told Variety.

“Sister” is directed by Yin Ruoxin, whose first film “White Sun” (aka Farewell My Lad”) played at the 2020 editions of the Shanghai and Hainan film festivals before receiving a December commercial release. “My Sister,” which sees the director reteam with lead actress Zhang Zifeng, gets its own theatrical release from April 2, 2021.

Lian Ray has rarely been this visible to international parts of the business, despite having carved out a significant niche for itself in Chinese circles. Operating from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Toronto, the company is these days positioned across film finance, production, distribution and marketing.
Its recent credits are impressive. They include investment, co-production and marketing and distribution of “Better Days,” the Derek Tsang-directed youth movie that was Hong Kong’s most recent Oscar contender and which became a surprise hit on the mainland.

Lian Ray held similar roles on December-January hit “Little Red Flower” and on Peter Chan’s “Leap,” China’s Oscar contender, released in September last year. At the most recent Lunar New Year season it has stakes in tow of the seven major releases: it was co-producer of eventual winner “Hi Mom,” a time-travel family comedy which has now earned $795 million (RMB5.17 billion), and animation franchise movie “Boonie Bears: The Wild Life,” which has now clocked up $88.5 million (RMB575 million).

As an importer-distributor, Lian Ray was previously involved in releasing Indian hit drama “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha” (known in several markets as “Toilet: A Love Story”).

With over 200 in-house staff in distribution and contractual links to HG Entertainment’s chain of 440 cinemas, Lian Ray has until recently operated as a useful middle man, co-producer and financier.
Its recently-revised corporate strategy, sees the company downplaying its subsidiary role, taking on risk and increasingly acting as principal. Lian Ray Global, “Sister” and a FilMart debut are the manifestations of where the new strategy may be leading the group.

“We’ll be producing three to four new films per year for the locals and international markets, from now,” said the spokesman.