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Danish film company Zentropa, founded by European art-house star and enfant terrible filmmaker Lars Von Trier, is partnering with Chinese film companies Jetavana Entertainment and Sheng-Wei Media on the project My Best Friend Andersen, a Chinese-language young-adult and family fantasy film, exploring the fairytale universe of classic Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen.
The movie will be the first-ever China-Denmark co-production.
The project will be written by China’s most in-demand screenwriter, Shu Huan, the talent behind Lost in Thailand (2012) and Lost in Hong Kong (2015), currently ranked No. 4 and No. 2, respectively, on the all-time Chinese box-office chart.
Director and casting announcements are yet to come, but it’s safe to say Von Trier himself will not be involved. The Chinese partnership is the brainchild of Rikke Ennis, CEO of Zentropa China, a division launched to explore the potential for such Sino-Scandinavian tie-ins. My Best Friend Andersen will be the first in what Zentropa hopes will become a slate of Chinese-Danish co-productions.
The film will be shot in China and Odense, Denmark, the historical hometown of the 19th century author who created numerous fairy tale classics that have inspired films and TV adaptations, most famously by Disney with The Little Mermaid and Frozen.
Lensing is scheduled to begin in August, and the film is targeting a worldwide release in 2017.
“This co-operation is ground-breaking,” said Ennis in a statement. “I believe that with Shu’s amazing writing talent, the skills of the team behind Jetavana and the quality filmmaking Zentropa represents, this film will take local Chinese films into a new era.”
Shu, whose new imprint Shengwei Media will co-produce, added: “I want to take this film to a new level both storywise and visually. This will be a film for the young generation and the whole family.”
Jetavana is the new production company of Chinese industry veteran Ivy Zhong, former CEO of Galloping Horse Pictures. Said Zhong: “When Shu Huan brought this project to me, I knew instantly this is what we want to do in Jetavana — original, high-quality international co-productions. We hope this collaboration will be only the first in a long-term collaboration in which we will make many films together.”
For Zentropa, the Chinese deal is an extension of the company’s co-production philosophy. The Danish group has stand-alone production operations in numerous European countries, a structure that allows it to cross-finance experimental and auteur-driven features — such as those by company founder Von Trier — that have become Zentropa’s trademark.
It remains to be seen whether Zentropa’s Chinese division will also team up on future projects with the company’s European subsidiaries.
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