China, Japan move toward prod'n pact


SHANGHAI -- Taking a step closer to a film co-production treaty, which is expected to take at least another two years, China and Japan are set to sign a memorandum of understanding for cinematic cooperation Friday.

Zhan Xun of the China Film Co-production Corp. and Hideyuki Takai, president of overseas promotion body UniJapan and film production giant Toho, plan to sign the seven-point agreement at the 10th annual Shanghai International Film Festival, UniJapan deputy director Takashi Nishimura said in an interview this week.

Neither country screens many of its neighbor's films, but a growing interest in working together and recent attempts to put a historically testy relationship behind them has seen investment from Japan flow into China in recent years, led by such companies as Avex and Kadokawa, Nishimura said.

"We need to deal with our unpleasant past, and this agreement is a starting point," Nishimura said, referring to regular outbursts from both sides about the treatment of Chinese by the occupying Japanese army during the 1940s.

The CFCC-UniJapan memo is the second such agreement Japan has signed. The first, with France, was signed in 2005 and also is expected to take at least two years to mature into a proper film co-production treaty.

The agreement, a copy of which was seen by The Hollywood Reporter before its public release, says that beginning this year, the CFCC and UniJapan will meet regularly in Tokyo or Beijing to exchange information about their respective industries and activities.

China has formal film co-production treaties with Canada and Italy and hopes to sign four more by year's end with England, France, India and Australia, Mao Xiaotian of CFCC said last month at Cannes.

The UniJapan-CFCC memo also says that both bodies will organize workshops for producers interested in making China-Japan co-productions; provide a matchmaking service for films and producers; exchange such industry statistics as boxoffice figures and screen counts; and mutually promote each other's finished co-productions.

In the agreement, which will be revisited in three years, both companies say they will link the English-language versions of their respective Web sites. "What we need now is more communication between the countries," Nishimura said.

CFCC has long tried to communicate its vision of a Communist Party-supported and -approved film industry but has produced few titles that have succeeded overseas.

Japan has not sent too many films to China since the 1970s, when actor Ken Takakura was a star. "Quill" met with modest success in China in 2005, and Toho is set to release "The Sinking of Japan" there later this year.

"The Japanese market is changing, and producers can no longer rely on the home market alone," Nishimura said.