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Top Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai will produce the debut movie of Alibaba Pictures, the film unit of e-commerce giant Alibaba. The movie will be written and directed by Zhang Jiajia, who is hugely popular with young readers, and will feature actor Tony Leung.
The movie was launched at an event in Beijing in the 751 art district of the capital. The title Bai Du Ren roughly translates as ‘Ferrymen’ and is based on a short story by Zhang, who said it was about people helping others with difficulties “get to the other side.”
“Cooperation with Alibaba Pictures is a new experience for me because it is a film co-produced with a technology and Internet company,” Wong, director of In the Mood for Love and Chungking Express said at the event. “The film is a combination of literature, movie and technology.”
Alibaba’s founder and executive chairman Jack Ma has made no secret of his ambitions to expand into the film business and has described his firm as “the world’s biggest entertainment company.”
Alibaba Pictures also has acquired the adaptation rights for My Fair Princess and the overseas distribution rights for Wolf Totem. As well as Wong, the group has signed cooperation agreements with well-known directors such as Peter Chan and Steven Chow to acquire priority rights to invest in their future projects.
Zhang Qiang, CEO and executive director of Alibaba Pictures, said the company would leverage the Alibaba group’s cloud computing and big-data technologies to tap customer demand and create a comprehensive ecosystem for its film and television production and marketing businesses. Zhang said the goal of Alibaba Pictures was to provide high-quality content to Chinese audiences, and the top talent involved in this product was a signal of the company’s commitment to well-crafted projects.
The company will also work with Taobao Marketplace’s movie vertical to build a new product sales system that will improve online reservations and ticket presales to boost marketing efficiency.
“Many people thought when I joined that Alibaba had a lot of money and would be very self-indulgent. But I realized that while there is no lack of money, we would not be self-indulgent. Alibaba Pictures will respect the audience. Audience reaction is our measurement, and audience expectations are our goal. We want to make films that people like,” Zhang said at the event.
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