'John Rabe' gets pre-holiday China bow

Will go head to head with 'Nanjing! Nanjing!'

BEIJING -- "John Rabe," about a German businessman who saved 200,000 Chinese from Japanese invading Nanjing in 1937, is set for release in China on April 28, Huayi Brothers, the film's independent Chinese co-production partner and distributor, said Monday.

Just ahead of a peak-moviegoing week around the May 1 Labor Day holiday in China, "John Rabe," from writer-director Florian Gallenberger, will go head-to-head in busy cinemas with "Nanjing! Nanjing!" -- director Lu Chuan's film about the same sensitive period of China's wartime history, made the China Film Group.

"John Rabe," which recently was nominated for seven German Film Awards, that country's top cinema honor, is a big-budget epic based on a true story and stars Ulrich Tukur, Steve Buscemi, Daniel Bruhl, Chinese actress Zhang Jingchu and Japanese actor Teruyuki Kagawa.

Opening in Germany on ThursdayApril 2, "John Rabe" was shot almost entirely in Asia and co-produced by Huayi, which will release 300 35mm prints and 200 digital prints, a Huayi spokeswoman said.

Asked about filmmaking in China, Gallenberger said that with the right partners "China is full of opportunities."

"Take your time and try to understand how things work in China, which is sometimes very different than in Europe," Gallenberger said. "And be open to learn from the Chinese system, then you will be surprised how much can be achieved."

China limits to 20 the number of films that can be imported and earn a share of the domestic boxoffice each year. Co-productions are exempt from this cap and are subjected to careful script examination by Beijing media authorities before they go into production.

As a German-Chinese-French co-production every partner behind "John Rabe" had his ideas and wishes, Gallenberger said. "As a writer-director you are confronted with all this input and it's your task to make sure, that the core of the film doesn't suffer from too many opinions."

Gallenberger said Chinese authorities' interference "was surprisingly unproblematic."

"There were some remarks, but truly not touching the fundamental aspects of the film," he said.

He declined comment on "John Rabe" releasing at roughly the same time as "Nanking! Nanking!" for which a release date has yet to be announced.

Gallenberger has now written a script for a huge film set in China, which covers about 50 years and includes the revolution and World War II.

"I guess I will tell our Chinese partners about this project and see how they react. It would make a very strong and moving film, and I surely wouldn't mind making another film in China," he said.
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