Chinese Streaming Giant iQiyi Taps Chen Kaige to Produce Original Online Series

Chen Kaige - H 2018
Courtesy of Getty Images

Titled 'The Eight,' the period drama follows a young man's descent into the criminal underworld while fighting to save China’s independence against during the country's Republican era.

Palme d'Or winning Chinese filmmaker Chen Kaige has signed to executive produce a prestige online drama series for Chinese streaming giant iQiyi.

Titled The Eight, the project marks Chen's first foray into the online series arena. iQiyi says Chen will be "responsible for the script and deeply involved in every aspect of the series from casting to editing to cinematography."

The Eight takes place in both Paris and China amid the turmoil of the Middle Kingdom's early Republican era. It tells the story of a young Chinese man who has grown up at the intersection of the Chinese and Western societies. The series follows his descent into the criminal underworld while fighting to save China’s independence against a variety of hostile forces.

A pillar of China's fifth generation of filmmakers, Chen is best known internationally for his Oscar-nominated period drama Farewell, My Concubine, and other critically acclaimed works such as The Emperor and the Assassin and Forever Enthralled. The partnership is a coup for iQiyi, as it continues to work to boost the quality and diversity of its original content library.

“The rise of premium internet dramas has opened up a huge space for creative innovation,” Chen said in a statement Friday. “With this freedom, directors can now approach storytelling from many different dimensions and create deeper, more richly drawn characters.”

Beijing-based iQiyi, which went public on the Nasdaq earlier this year, is believed to be a narrow leader in the Chinese streaming-video market, with an estimated 61.3 million paid subscribers as of March. The company also has sizable content licensing deals with U.S. partners such as Netflix, Lionsgate, Warner Bros., Fox and NBCUniversal.