'Children' first of Oz-China co-productions

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SYDNEY -- The Australian film "Children of Huang Shi" will be the first feature produced under a newly inked co-production treaty between Australia and China.

After three years of negotiations, the co-production deal was signed Monday at the Australian embassy in Beijing, George Brandis, Australia's minister for the arts and sport, said Wednesday.

"China represents a huge potential growth area for Australian production, and the opportunities to develop co-produced films which have cultural relevance to both countries are unlimited," Brandis said. "This agreement will give Australian filmmakers greater access to the film market of the world's most populous nation and the important wider Asian market."

The treaty, which awaits ratification by Australia's Parliament, was signed by Tong Gang, director general of China's Film Bureau, and Australia's ambassador to China, Geoff Raby.

Brandis said that the agreement, which covers feature films and telefilms, will "promote cultural and creative exchange and help to share the economic costs and benefits of productions."

Features made under the co-production treaty will qualify for local production funding and incentives.

At Cannes in May, China Film Co-Production Corp. vp Mao Xiaotian targeted Australia, along with the U.K., France and India, as desired partners for formal film co-production treaties. China has existing accords with Canada and Italy.

The Chinese-Australian treaty marks Australia 's seventh co-production partnership. It joins existing treaties with the U.K. and Northern Ireland, Canada, Italy, Ireland, Israel and Germany, as well as memorandums of understanding with France and New Zealand.

In addition, a treaty with South Africa is being negotiated, while another with Singapore is expected to be signed at next week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Sydney.

The new treaty is expected to take effect in the next few months but could be held up in Parliament by the upcoming Australian general election, an Australian embassy official in Beijing said.

"Children of Huang Shi," which also has Germany as a co-production partner, is currently in postproduction. The Roger Spottiswoode film will be distributed by Capitol Films, Sony Pictures Classics, Quixinran and Becker/Dendy Films, according to Film Finance Corp. Australia.

Jonathan Landreth in Beijing contributed to this report.
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