BEIJING – Hit-making Chinese director Feng Xiaogang’s next picture, Remembering 1942, tells of a deathly famine in central China that claimed three million lives during the war of resistance against Japan, Huayi Brothers, his long-time production partner said on Wednesday.
Remembering 1942 will be the first time Feng addresses on the big screen Japan’s WWII era atrocities, a fraught subject for Chinese filmmakers, but one that in recent years has proven commercially popular in the marketplace.
The 150 million yuan ($23 million) tentatively-titled project was adapted for the screen from writer Liu Zhenyun‘s 1993 novel of the same name and is expected to begin shooting in October, a Huayi spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter in an email.
The story is set in central China’s Henan province, south of Beijing, where novelist Liu grew up. Liu also wrote Cell Phone, the book on which Feng based a popular 2003 film.
Feng’s past political and war films, titles such as Aftershock, about the 1976 Tangshan and 2008 Wenchuan quakes, and Assembly, about China’s involvement in the Korean War, carry the message that for all the faults of a one-party system, Chinese unity against hardship is paramount.
Some of that unity against the Japanese was seen in recent popular films such as director Lu Chuan’s City of Life and Death, about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre. The theme surely will be revisited in director Zhang Yimou’s upcoming Nanjing film starring Academy Award winner Christian Bale (The Fighter).
Feng’s Aftershock briefly last year became the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time, grossing more than $100 million at the box office, before it was toppled from that status by actor-director Jiang Wen’s Let the Bullets Fly.
Separately, Feng currently is the poster-advertising spokesman for Japanese automaker Subaru’s Forester station wagon.
Huayi Brothers, the advertising company turned film and television studio, was the first privately-run Chinese film company to go public, on the Shenzhen stock exchange in 2009, raising roughly $76 million.
Recently, it has entered into projects such as The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman with Fox International Productions and Disney’s High School Musical China.