Top Chinese director Feng Xiaogang will step in front of the camera alongside Chinese-American actor-director Joan Chen in a local adaptation of the heart-warming Japanese dog film “Hachiko Monogatari,” which began shooting Thursday. Produced by iQiyi Films and executive produced by Taiwanese veteran Yeh Jufeng, it is currently set to premiere in China on New Year’s Eve.
The 1987 Japanese “Hachiko” has already been re-vamped by Hollywood in 2009’s “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen. Both recount the true story of a faithful Akita named Hachi whose bond with his owner was so strong that he continued to wait for his deceased master at the same downtown spot every day for an entire decade after the man died.
The Chinese remake will be based on the original Japanese “Hachiko” screenplay by Kaneto Shindo, which iQiyi licensed from Japan’s Kindai Eiga Kyokai Co.
Leading man Feng is best known for his work as a director on films such as “Youth,” “I Am Not Madame Bovary” and “Cellphone,” but he has also frequently taken on acting roles, such as his most recent star turn in 2015’s “Mr. Six.” China-born Chen (“The Last Emperor,” “Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl”) is one of the few leading ladies with a robust career on both sides of the Pacific.
Notably, China’s take on “Hachiko” will not feature an Akita, a Japanese dog breed, but instead a Chinese field dog native to the country. The breed is one of a number typically lumped together as “tugou” or “rural dogs,” which are often considered to be pesky strays and are one of the more popular breeds controversially — and increasingly rarely — consumed as meat. The Chinese field dog is one of 22 banned breeds that as of 2018 could not be legally registered as pets in a few Chinese cities.
The Chinese remake will be helmed by Xu Ang, who previously directed “12 Citizens (2014),” a Chinese take on Reginald Rose’s “Twelve Angry Men,” and the popular Sohu TV police procedural web series “Medical Examiner Dr. Qin.”
The $16 million-budgeted, New England-set American “Hachi” grossed $46.7 million globally. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom and counting Gere among its producers, it was written by Stephen P. Lindsey and Kaneto Shindo. The earlier “Hachiko” had led the Japanese box office the year of its release.
Although neither film has hit Chinese cinemas, they both have high user ratings on the country’s top apps. American “Hachi” boasts a 9.3 and a 9.4 out of 10 on Maoyan and Douban, respectively, while Japanese “Hachiko” rates a 9 and a 9.2 on the same. Variety’s review called “Hachi” a family-friendly “simple tearjerker” with a retro feel.
Dog films have become an increasingly popular genre in China, and a number of Hollywood tales featuring man’s best friend have found box office success in the territory. In 2017, the Dennis Quaid-starring “A Dog’s Purpose” grossed $88.2 million in China, while its sequel “A Dog’s Journey” earned $29.2 million. The Sino-U.S. production backed by Columbia Pictures and Bona Film “A Dog’s Way Home” grossed $5.37 million in 2019.
The official Chinese poster features a dog and his owner hand in paw.
Watch the trailers for “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” and “Hachiko Monogatari” below.