Hong Kong Filmart has the goods

Market starts with keen interest in 'Nanking!' 'Child's Eye'

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Q&A: Lu Chuan

HONG KONG -- The Hong Kong Filmart got off to a steady start Monday as guests streamed into the convention hall and buzzed around a handful of hot titles in various stages of completion, including Lu Chuan's high-profile "Nanking! Nanking!"

Anticipation among buyers and sellers was piqued by a jump in the number of Chinese companies present in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center this year, even if a few griped about the lack of carpeting in the cavernous venue -- apparently a cost-saving measure -- and lingering construction noise.

Director Lu's "Nanking! Nanking!" about the massacre of Chinese at the hands of Japan's army 72 years ago, is getting lots of attention in the Chinese-language press. Lu is not at Filmart as he's holed up in Beijing editing the film, which he hopes to finish in time for the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Lu told The Hollywood Reporter that Harvey Weinstein has seen the film and expressed strong interest in world rights outside China. The Weinstein Co.'s man in Asia, Bey Logan, declined comment. Media Asia is the sales agent.

Among the flood of Asian films just getting going, the one turning the most heads seemed to be "The Child's Eye in 3D," which the twin helming duo of Danny and Oxide Pang are billing as the first Asian digital 3-D horror film. The $4.5 million picture from Hong Kong's Universe Films Distribution is about six Hong Kongers who encounter the supernatural while stranded in the Bangkok airport during the anti-government protests in November. It begins shooting in Bangkok in June. Late Monday, the film closed a deal with Scorpio East for the Malaysian and Singaporean theatrical and video rights.

Martial arts action film "High Kick Girl!" from Japanese writer-producer-director Fuyuhiko Nishi ("Black Belt") drew indie sales agent Hexagon Pictures considerable interest after an early Monday screening for buyers from Taiwan and Korea. The film was previously sold to China and Turkey.

Building on the success of 2008's "Painted Skin," Hong Kong sales company's Golden Sun's recently announced $20 million "A Chinese Ghost Story" was attracting interest from major U.S. and Japanese studios, with the latter talking about early investment. The second installment in a "Lord of the Rings"-style trilogy also drew presale offers from Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and Vietnam.

Mandarin Films' planned 2010 sequel to Donnie Yen vehicle "Ip Man" -- which grossed 200 million yuan -- also made its Filmart debut and quickly drew offers from Southeast Asian buyers.

Mandarin also is representing One Dollar Prod.'s adult film "3D Sex & Zen," a reprise of the 1990s popular genre, which attracted attention from Japanese and Korean buyers.

Distribution Workshop's "Overheard," a traditional Hong Kong cop thriller from the "Infernal Affairs" writing-directing team of Felix Chong and Alan Mak, drew interest from Southeast Asia and Europe.

Tsai Ming-liang's marquee name was seen as helping Fortissimo Films pull Asian interest for "Face," the Taiwanese auteur's film with a predominantly French cast.

Meanwhile, Bill Kong's EDKO Films hoped to close a Vietnam deal for "Blood, the Last Vampire," a film that sees Frenchman Chris Nahon direct Korean starlet Gianna Jun as a demon-hunting vampire in post-World War II Japan. EDKO has sewn up sales in the rest of Asia.

Karen Chu and Gavin J. Blair contributed to this report.
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