Golden Bear-Winning 'Black Coal, Thin Ice' Opens In China

Courtesy of Fortissimo
Black Coal, Thin Ice opens in China

50 Cent, Timbaland, Eminem and Carmelo Anthony are among the investors in the film.

Chinese director Diao Yinan’s Black Coal, Thin Ice, which won a Golden Bear for best film and the Silver Bear for best actor for the movie’s star, Liao Fan, at the 2014 Berlinale Film Festival, opened in China’s cinemas on Wednesday.

The moody noir piece, which will screen in Tribeca in April, tells the story of a former policeman-turned-detective investigating serial killings in a northern industrial region. There had been concerns that this kind of film might not get censorship approval, but the Film Bureau gave its blessing.

It also marks the first foray into the booming Chinese film business for rappers 50 Cent, Timbaland, Eminem and NBA player Carmelo Anthony, who were among the backers for Black Coal, Thin Ice.

“We were all passionate about the idea of building a film business in China. It is a fascinating country, the culture and history, and it is now the second-largest market for films in the world after the U.S. Their film industry and box office are growing astronomically,” said Daniel Victor, whose company Boneyard Entertainment China collaborated with Jiangsu Omnijoi Movie Co to back the movie.

FILM REVIEW: Black Coal, Thin Ice

Boneyard has produced and financed nine feature films in the U.S. and Britain since 1996, including the Academy Award-winning Sling Blade, Henry Fool, which won the Best Screenplay award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, and Greenfingers, starring Helen Mirren and Clive Owen.
Through Boneyard, Victor brought together his band of high-profile investors with the long-term vision of building a film company focused on what he sees as the world’s most exciting and quickly-evolving market.

Victor said that while there was no way to group these investors together, they shared some characteristics.

“Carmelo has a sympathy, or a connection, to China and how his fans there feel about him,” he said. “50 Cent is a serious businessman with a serious interest in the movies. He’s a sophisticated and a smart guy. People have different connections and they are all excited."

“China is a big factor. Carmelo, 50, they had some involvement in the movie business before what we were doing in China. This is not their first involvement but an opportunity to bring things together. There is a lot of crossover in these areas,” Victor said.

“The cinematography, the performances -- to me they show Diao’s growth as a filmmaker. I watched [Diao's previous movies] Uniform and Night Train and I think Black Coal, Thin Ice shows growth in his ability from a pacing standpoint. In terms of accessibility to a wider audience, it may be art house in the U.S. or in the U.K., but in China, why couldn’t it be a mainstream movie? This speaks to his ability,” Victor said.

Boneyard has been in partnership with Jiangsu Omnijoi Movie to co-finance, co-produce and co-distribute films in China and in the U.S. since 2010. Victor said that he and the president of Jiangsu Omnijoi Movie were cautious about their first project.

“The essential component to success in the film business in China is not much different than here in the U.S. -- finding a talented and honorable partner,” he said.

The aim was not to make an art house movie, but one that would be artistic and popular.

“We loved the noir element -- he loves The Maltese Falcon and The Third Man. It’s one thing to bring a script, but they have to have a vision of what’s going to be on the screen. It’s a testament to his abilities and it has more of a chance to break out in China,” Victor said.

“You don’t have to sacrifice quality in order to make something with appeal. It’s not a Hollywood movie, but it has a chance to find several different audiences."

Boneyard and Jiangsu Omnijoi have their second film scheduled to begin principal photography in May, and a third film slated for later in 2014.