AFM 2012: James Cameron Doc 'Imperial City Beijing' Seeks Hollywood Support

James Cameron

"So maybe we screwed up and the board should have been a little tiny bit smaller, but the dude's goin' down."

Partially set in the Forbidden City, the docudrama looks at how the Chinese capital has changed over the past 800 years.

The Chinese producers of Imperial City Beijing, a 3D docudrama set partly in Beijing’s Forbidden City and co-produced by James Cameron, have brought the project to AFM to try and secure more Hollywood backing.

“The six studios have always wanted to make films in the Forbidden City but they found it very difficult to do that without getting a permit from the government. This is a good opportunity for them to do so,” said Wang Haiyi, head of business development and international departments for Pegasus & Taihe Entertainment International, which is co-producing Imperial City Beijing with Cameron's Pace Group.

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Imperial City Beijing has already received official blessing in the form of China Film Group coming on board as a co-producer as well as backing of the Chinese cultural ministry, the Beijing Municipal Government and the State Administraion for Radio, Film and Television.

The project, which was announced on August 8 when Cameron launched the Chinese arm of his Cameron Pace Group in Beijing, revolves around the changes of the Chinese capital in the past 800 years, with a focus on its architectural landmarks.

It will be made with different versions for domestic and international distribution, Wang said.

“The domestic version will be more like a feature film with the participation of major Chinese film stars. As foreign audiences are not that familiar with them, the international version will be more like a docu-drama with the former palace being more prominent,” said Wang.

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Meanwhile, Wang also told The Hollywood Reporter that their latest action thriller, Switch, will have its world premiere at Dubai – where parts of the film were shot – in early January.

Directed by Jay Sun and featuring 3D technology overseen by Avatar’s visual effects specialist Chuck Comisky, the film (which is co-produced by Hong Kong’s Media Asia) will then be simultaneously released across Asia at the end of that month. The film revolves around a Chinese hero (Andy Lau of Infernal Affairs fame) fighting off Japanese Yakuzas and British mercenaries vying for a valuable Chinese historical scroll.

Wang said the 160 million yuan (US $25.6 million) film has already been acquired by Southeast Asian distributors, and his company is looking at inking a deal for South Korea at AFM.

Discussion with Japanese companies, he said, have been thrown into doubt after the escalation of the Sino-Japanese political dispute over the sovereignty of a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, as the film features Japanese villains taking a heavy beating from the film’s lead character.