Cannes: Competition Entry 'The Assassin' Nabbed by Well Go for North America

'The Assassin,' Hou Hsiao-hsien

After several fallow years for Asian cinema in Cannes, 2015 marks the return of Far East auteurs to the festival. The Assassin is the first feature in eight years from Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien, whose last film, Flight of the Red Balloon, opened the Un Certain Regard sidebar in 2007, and who won Cannes' grand jury prize in 1993 for The Puppetmaster. The new film stars Qi Shu as a female assassin during the Tang dynasty. (Sales: Wild Bunch)

The film is directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien.

Well Go USA Entertainment announced Monday that it had acquired all North American rights to Hou Hsiao-hsien's martial arts epic The Assassin, which is playing in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

Starring Shu Qi (Millennium Mambo) and Chang Chen (Three Times), the film has been in the works for close to a decade. Stephen Shin, Wen-Ying Huang, Chen Yiqi and Stephen Lam produced the film, which was shot by Hou's longtime collaborator Mark Lee Ping-Bing.

The story is set in 9th century China. Nie Yinniang, the 10-year-old daughter of a decorated general, is abducted by a nun who trains her in the martial arts. She is transformed into an exceptional assassin (Shu), charged with eliminating cruel and corrupt government officials. After a failed mission, she returns to the land of her birth with orders to kill her betrothed husband-to-be (Chang), a cousin who now commands the largest military force in North China. After 13 years in exile, the young woman must confront her parents, her memories and her long-repressed feelings. A slave to the orders of her mistress, she must choose: sacrifice the man she loves or break forever with the sacred way of the righteous assassins.

"We have a proud history of supporting films from Taiwan, and Hou Hsiao-hsien is a legend," said Doris Pfardrescher, president and CEO of Well Go USA. "It's like someone made a wish list, and we got everything we could have hoped for: iconic director, stellar cast and this exciting, moving story."

The Assassin will make its world premiere at the festival on May 21.

The deal was negotiated by Pfardrescher and Wild Bunch's Carole Baraton.