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Production is under way on “Land of Mercy” an English-language animated feature set in Tibet. The story sees a young man embark on a quest for Buddhist enlightenment that was the last wish of his dying father.

Its voice cast includes Armand Assante (HBO’s “Gotti”), Alexander Wraith (“The Mandalorian”) and Louis Mandylor (“Debt Collector”) as well as Singapore stage actor Adrian Pang.

The $3 million picture is written, directed and produced by Tan Keng Leck, head of Singapore-based firm Hwallywood Studio, and adapted from a well-known novel by Fan Wen. Animation production is handled by the film’s co-producer Indonesia’s MSV (“Battle of Surabaya”).

Production is to be completed by mid-next year, with release of the film in October 2023. No sales agent or distribution channel has been announced yet.

Fan Wen is a China-based author, who identifies as Catholic and has completed 15 literary works. He reputedly spent ten years penning his “Trilogy of Tibet,” (“Harmonious Land,” “Land of Mercy” and “Canticle to the Land”) about the lives of people in the fringes of Yunnan, Szechuan and Tibet. “The series of novels reflects the integration of multiple minorities, religions and civilizations,” says publisher Simon & Schuster. Fan’s novels have been widely translated and published around the world.

“This is the most dramatic of the three novels,” Tan told Variety. “But we have only used part of the material in the book and can envisage a sequel based on other parts of ‘Land of Mercy’. It is a real epic.” Tan was previously a publisher and was involved in the book’s English language translation and distribution.

Lazy loaded image
Louis Mandylor behind the scenes on ‘Land of Mercy’. Kompin Kemgumnird

“We have been in pre-production for two years already, with character design and storyboarding already completed. And we have all of the voice parts now recorded, except for Armand Assante who plays a Lama,” Tan said, explaining the relatively short time envisaged for physical production.

Other key roles have also been assigned. Animation director is Kompin Kemgumnird (animator on “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” and director of “Blue Elephant”); art director and concept artist is Tod Polson (colour artist on “The Secret of Kells”) and musical score by Ricky Ho (“Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above,” “Seediq Bale”).

While the co-producers have not yet appointed a sales agent, Tan says that he envisages the film obtaining a theatrical release in much of Asia. Whether it can be released in mainland China, where religion, Tibet and the Dalai Lama are all sensitive subjects, remains moot. While some Hollywood figures including Richard Gere, Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves have all been shunned by Chinese authorities after speaking up for Tibet, Fan Wen’s works have been published in the country. “Animation may be an easier prospect than a live action film, but we are not assuming anything about China, so if we get a release there it will be a bonus,” said Tan.

Hwallywood pitches ‘Land of Mercy’ as a story based in Eastern Tibet in the Kham region, where the greatest mystics, craftiest merchants and the most notorious bandits in the whole of Tibet call home. Its synopsis of the film reads: “The story begins in the 1920s in the village of a picturesque Langsa valley, and follows the trials and tribulations of two feuding families living on both sides of the river, the Kunga family and the Langsa clan. After his father’s death, Alaxi, the youngest son of the Kunga family, goes on a long and arduous spiritual journey to fulfil his father’s dying wish and his spiritual prophecy of achieving enlightenment. Against the backdrop of the impending threat of the Chinese Red Army, Alaxi rallies both feuding families to keep the peace. The story combines numerous Buddhist belief and mystical fable unique to Tibetan Buddhism.”