Asia Pacific Alliance swells

3 new members on board; slate includes ‘Eat Drink’ sequel

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HONG KONG -- Salon Films' Asia Pacific Alliance announced three new partners -- National Arts Entertainment of Hong Kong and Enlight Pictures and Pearl River Film Co. of China -- and unveiled a new slate on Tuesday.

With the help of the Access Asia Fund and the alliance, Taiwan's Zoom Hunt International Production said it is developing the $10 million "The Mermaid," a special effects-heavy retelling of the legend about the underwater city in Yunnan province by "Dim Sum Funeral" scribe Anna Chi.

Li Shao-hung, director of the new $14.6 million television adaptation of literary classic "Dream of the Red Chamber," and Chi are in negotiations to helm "Mermaid." Chi will bring husband Douglas Smith, visual effects supervisor of Rhythm & Hues, if set to direct, Zoom Hunt president and veteran Taiwanese producer Hsu Li-kong said.

Also in the pipeline is the sequel to "Eat Drink Man Woman," tentatively named "Far Away but Close," to begin shooting in August by director Tsao Jui-yuan ("Love's Lone Flower"). Newly crowned Asian Film Awards best actress Zhou Xun and "Eternal Summer" star Joseph Chang are in negotiation for the leads.

Producer Hsu Li-kong, also known as Ang Lee's mentor, said that the company is also shaping a wuxia martial arts project told through Chinese poetry that is intended for Lee.

Likewise developed by the $300 million Access Asia Fund is Singapore's MediaCorp. Raintree Pictures' "1965," a $15 million snapshot of Singapore's political history from 1945-60 by "Maid in Manhattan" Chinese-American director Wayne Wang, who is in talks with Peter Morgan, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "The Queen," to write the script.

National Arts Entertainment is developing a prequel biopic of "Ip Man." Production starts in October with Hong Kong Wushu champion To Yu-Hang as the young Ip Man. National Arts chairman Checkley Sin is also involved with Mandarin Films to make "Ip Man 2."

Also announced by the Alliance was China's Zhejiang Hengdian Film Production's development of a theatrical chain in China, which would complete the studio's industry value chain. The company started as a production facility before moving into film financing, filmmaking and distribution.

The Asia Pacific Alliance initiative aims to promote the collective development of the Asian film industry. It was formed in 2008 by Hong Kong's Salon Films with China's Zhejiang Hengdian Film Production and the China Film Foundation; Japan's Yoshimoto Kogyo; MediaCorp. Raintree Pictures; Media Development Authority Singapore; Zoom Hunt; and the Access Asia Fund to finance Asian co-productions,

"We can't call ourselves the 'Hollywood of the East' and then just compete with other film industries," Salon chairman Fred Wang said."That's counterproductive. It should be a collaborative process for the whole region."