Korea's CJ to help young Chinese filmmakers

Partners with China Film Group for martial arts epic

SEOUL -- Leading Korean media group CJ Entertainment on Friday unveiled two major partnerships with China Film Group Corp. -- a co-production deal on a martial arts epic and a joint investment to nurture young Chinese filmmakers.

Based on the Tibetan Buddhist painting of the same name, "Thangka" is slated to begin filming in March, with a release set for the Lunar New Year in early 2009.

Director Jacob Cheung ("Battle of Wits") will helm from a script by Liu Heng ("Assembly").

The companies called Friday's signing of a memorandum of understanding in Beijing -- by CJ Entertainment president Kim Joo-sung and CFGC president Han Sanping -- "a significant step toward cooperation between two of the top companies leading the Chinese and Korean film industry."

"MOUs with the China Film Group and the Chinese government are quite important," CJ executive vp and head of international business David Shin told The Hollywood Reporter. "We think we'll do about two movies a year with the CFG."

CFG is by far the largest movie group in China, backing a whole host of big-budget projects at the moment, including John Woo's $80-million period epic "Red Cliff," Peter Chan's "The Warlords" and Stephen Chow's "CJ7."

In a second deal, CJ, CFG, and Hong Kong studios Media Asia and Emperor Motion Pictures announced the CFG Film Production Plan for New Director Talents, a project that will develop young Chinese filmmakers.

A CFG spokesman confirmed the agreement but declined to elaborate on the signatories or terms.

Under the development plan, five Asian film companies will be chosen to co-develop low-budget Chinese films, with up to $3.5 million available to assist in various phases of production.

The 11th annual Beijing Screenings, which opened Tuesday, is a showcase for Chinese films made inside the state-run studio system controlled by CFG and monitored closely by the Film Bureau of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

Few of the 400 films the event has shown in the decade since its start have gone on to commercial success.