Door opens for Tibet film from Dai Wei

'Once Upon a Time in Tibet' to shoot in April

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HONG KONG -- Chinese director Dai Wei will begin shooting "Once Upon a Time in Tibet" outside Lhasa in late April with Beijing production company Stellar Megamodia ("Nanking! Nanking!"), Rome-based producer Mark Holdom told The Hollywood Reporter.

Holdom said he and Hong Kong actress Charlie Yeung met with investor Yang Yuen of Beijing-based Forward Capital here at Filmart and that the "Bangkok Dangerous" star is "strongly considering" starring in the film opposite a Western male lead.

As a New Zealander, Holdom thinks he could be the first Western producer to gain permission to shoot a feature film in the southwestern Himalayan reaches of China, where media are barred or tightly controlled by Beijing because of ethnic tensions that a year ago erupted into anti-Chinese riots.

(On Monday, Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrest without charges of 20-year-old Tibetan writer Kunga Tseyang, who last year helped make the documentary "Leaving Fear Behind," which interviews 100 Tibetans about Chinese oppression.)

"We're starting shooting on April 27," said Holdom, confident that he could also raise funding from Schmidt & Katze in Germany and Channel Four in the U.K. "I'm going to show up at a press conference in Beijing on April 20 with equipment and cash in hand."

Holdom, who boasts a varied background -- he's worked for Frank Zappa and Tommy Mottola in the music world -- said Beijing's Film Bureau granted permission for the film about "romantic miscommunication" in February. It will employ Tibetan cast and crew, he said.

"It's a great opportunity to make an internationally crafted film in a stunning natural setting," Holdom said.

Dai's last film, "Ganglamedo" -- made in 2008 by the state-run China Film Group -- is about a Tibetan folk song that haunts and connects a Tibetan bride to a Chinese singer who, 60 years after the bride's disappearance, grows passionate about the same song.

This year, which marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, Beijing is ratcheting up broadcast messages of ethnic harmony in programs from the Spring Festival gala in February to the annual legislative meeting a few weeks ago.

Zarshi Dhawa, who wrote "Ganglamedo," also penned "Once Upon a Time in Tibet."

"Once Upon a Time in Tibet" will be investor Yang's first involvement in films. He said he and Stellar Megamedia executive Yue Xiaomei discussed an ongoing production relationship.