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Leading Chinese film studio Huayi Brothers Media made its annual big splash at the Shanghai International Film Festival on Friday, unveiling an ambitious production slate for 2018 and 2019, as well as plans to import six high-profile Hollywood titles to China.
The company, headed by brothers Wang Zhongjun and Zhonglei, said it will handle Chinese distribution on Baltasar Kormakur’s Adrift, starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin, along with Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s action thriller Mile 22. Huayi holds the China distribution rights to the films thanks to its ongoing 18-picture co-financing deal with Bob Simonds’ STX Entertainment.
In 2019, Huayi plans to bring at least four U.S. films to China. They include: Paul Fieg’s upcoming mystery thriller, A Simple Favor, starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively; Peppermint, the American vigilante action thriller directed by Pierre Morel and starring Jennifer Garner; Doug Liman’s Chaos Walking, the sci-fi adaptation of The Knife of Never Letting Go, starring Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley and Mads Mikkelsen; and Radioactive, a Marie Curie biopic directed by Marjane Satrapi and starring Rosamund Pike.
The company also revealed that it will be handling the Chinese distribution for two of the most high-profile Asian titles from this year’s Cannes Film Festival: Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke’s Ash Is the Purest White, and Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters, from Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda. Taking the stage in Shanghai, Jia said that he is happy to be collaborating with the veteran Beijing studio for the first time.
On the domestic production front, Huayi teased both previously known and entirely new titles from some of the biggest names in the Chinese industry, including: Feng Xiaogang’s upcoming comedy sequel Cell Phone 2 (shooting now); Tsui Hark’s fantasy tentpole Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings (opening in China in July); Bureau 749, a new sci-fi project from Lu Chuan (coming in 2019); two sequels in the hit Chinese tomb-raiding franchise Ghost Blows Out the Light, both directed by Fei Xing (one to be released in October, the other coming in 2019); Mr. Six director Guan Hu’s WWII period action flick 800 (the project’s visual effects and stunt design team are being aided by Hollywood visual artists who worked on The Thin Red Line and Titanic); and untitled 2019 projects from directors Pan Anzi (For a Few Bullets) and Tian Yusheng (the filmmaker behind Huayi’s 2017 blockbuster comedy, Ex-Files 3).
Among the other surprise announcements is a collaboration with Oscar-winning Japanese director Yojiro Takita (Departures). The Japanese filmmaker will direct a family drama adapted from the Chinese novel Smoke. Speaking to the crowd in Shanghai, the helmer said: “In Japan, we have a saying that some chances only come once in a lifetime. So I really cherish this opportunity to work with China.”
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