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Mainland China Set to Make Major Impact at FilMart 2022

New series, films and even alternative content are to be delivered by the region that is making its mark in content distribution

Courtesy of HKTDC
Courtesy of HKTDC

The ongoing pandemic has inevitably changed the workings of the global film industry in a variety of ways. Throughout these ups and downs, one thing has yet to waver, and that’s the demand for new content. The upcoming Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FilMart) plans on highlighting what’s in store for 2022 and beyond.

Similar to film markets around the world, FilMart pivoted again by opting to hold its 2022 event virtually. According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the previous edition saw over 8,000 participants from 81 countries and regions, along with over 2,600 business matching meetings, a 15% increase from the year prior despite the new virtual setup.

With over 200 million TV viewers — and countless more opting to consume linear content on streaming platforms — mainland China has become one of the most prolific film and television content providers in the world. Among the 677 exhibitors at last year’s FilMart Online, 130 of them hailed from mainland China. In 2022, FilMart expects to see this number grow and is well-positioned to be the ideal industry avenue for buyers to find the latest hit titles coming from mainland China.

Prominent Chinese streamer iQIYI, which boasts over 500 million monthly users worldwide, is handling sales on “Life Is a Long Quiet River,” a TV series adaptation of the novel by award-winning writer Teng Xiaolan.

Chronicling one Shanghai family’s struggles over the daunting task of finding a home of their own, the 36-episode series tackles issues such as exorbitant real estate prices in large cities, as well as the social and economic implications stemming from the complexities of local household registration systems. The series is directed by Teng Huatao, best known for the 2009 TV series sensation “Dwelling Narrowness” and the 2011 blockbuster romantic comedy film “Love Is Not Blind.”

All sales of fantasy romance series “Song of the Moon” will be handled by iQIYI along with crime drama series “Man on the Edge,” a stylistic throwback of cops and robbers in Hong Kong that features several prominent Hong Kong actors.

Meanwhile, China Huace Film & TV Co., Ltd. is diving into period fantasy — a popular genre among overseas Chinese TV fans. The company is set to control sales on “The Blue Whisper,” the first of a two-part fantasy series based on a hit 2019 novel. The story follows a tumultuous love affair between a demon master and a merman. China Huace Film & TV Co., Ltd. is also selling “The Trust,” the TV adaptation of a popular graphic novel about an emperor who accidentally undergoes a body, swap with his queen, whom he married for convenience.

Beijing-based Century UU Technology Co. Ltd. is offering “Thank You, Doctor,” a 48-episode medical procedural drama. Inspired by a novel by Sheng Li, the show stars popular actress Yang Mi (“Eternal Love,” “A Writer’s Odyssey”) as a doctor who returns to China to run a hospital’s newly established emergency intensive care unit. Production on the series began in late 2019, but its shoot took an extensive hiatus due to the pandemic. It finally wrapped up production in November 2021.

In addition to TV series, mainland Chinese exhibitors are offering up alternative content for those yearning for something off the beaten path. The sales arm of arthouse production firm Midnight Blur Films, Parallax Films has become one of the most prolific Chinese arthouse sales agents on the film festival circuit. For FilMart Online, the company’s slate includes “Yanagawa” by Korean-Chinese director Zhang Lu. The Chinese-language film follows two brothers who travel from Beijing to the Japanese town of Yanagawa in search of a woman they loved in their youth. After its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival, the drama, starring top local stars Ni Ni from “The Flowers of War” and Sosuke Ikematsu, who starred in “Killing” and the upcoming “Kamen Rider” film, will open this year’s Osaka Asian Film Festival after winning the top prize at France’s Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinemas in February.

Parallax is also selling “Journey to the West,” a low-tech sci-fi comedy executive produced by Frant Gwo, the director of local sci-fi box office behemoth “The Wandering Earth.” Though it shares its name with the beloved Chinese literary fantasy classic, director Kong Dashan’s feature-length debut is actually a contemporary story about a magazine editor who goes on an obsessive quest for proof of UFOs. After winning best film and the Cinephilia Critics’ Award at the fifth Pingyao International Film Festival, the film also screened at this year’s International Film Festival in Rotterdam.

In 2022, HKTDC is looking forward to launching EntertainmentPulse concurrently with FilMart Online 2022. The program features distinguished industry leaders from around the world and hosts in-depth discussions on topics such as the boom of OTT platforms, pushing content creation forward, the balancing act of scripted TV, the future of documentary and animation, cultural exchanges and more.

Speakers include Sebastien Borget, co-founder of France’s The Sandbox; Melody Hildebrandt, president of Blockchain Creative Labs and chief information security officer of Fox Corporation; and Imamura Ken-ichi, executive producer of NHK Enterprises Inc. and adviser to international film forum Tokyo Docs.