Toronto: Arclight Takes Worldwide Sales Rights on Eddie Tse's 'The Deathday Party'

Archie Kao Deathday Party - H 2014
Courtesy of Arclight Films

Other death-themed Chinese projects at the Toronto festival include 'The Undertaking of Lily Chen'

Death features strongly as a theme in some of the high-profile Asian deals at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Arclight Films acquired the worldwide rights to, and initial sales for, the psychological thriller The Deathday Party. New York sales outfit FilmNation Entertainment has bought the film rights to The Undertaking of Lily Chen, about the macabre ancient tradition in China of postmortem brides.

The Deathday Party is Eddie Tse’s directorial debut, and it features Archie Kao, Anita Yuen and Xiong Naijin.

The film has already been sold in Hong Kong to My Way Films, along with having sold in other parts of Southeast Asia. It was presented to buyers for the first time at the Toronto International Film Festival.

"The Deathday Party represents a new breed of Chinese film that takes on Hollywood-style concepts, pace and storytelling. The film is set entirely in an imaginary city in the U.S., and all of its combined concepts make it a breakthrough film that will drive its sales potential all around the world," said Elliot Tong, head of Asian sales and acquisitions for Arclight Films.

The movie is a psychological crime-thriller about a woman, Helen (Yuen), who wakes up in a cold and unfamiliar operating room with no memory of how she ended up there, before being transported to an interrogation room and then to underground caves in a mystical U.S. city with no explanation of how it is all taking place.

"The Deathday Party signals a new era for Chinese genre films, and I'm glad to be a part of it," said Kao.

The film is presented by Brightstar Cinema, China Film, Hengdian Movies, Orange Sky Golden Harvest and Emei Film Group.

Meanwhile, FilmNation Entertainment has bought the film rights to Danica Novgorodoff’s graphic novel The Undertaking of Lily Chen with an aim for making a Chinese-language movie.

The book was inspired by an Economist article about the tradition of postmortem marriage in China. The article reported about a black market for female corpses that has sprung up in parts of rural northern China. 

 “Developing The Undertaking of Lily Chen —  a story inspired by local folklore but very much a classic boy-meets-girl tale — is a logical next step to expand our business in the world’s fastest growing theatrical market,” said Rob Carney, FilmNation VP, International Sales, who leads all Chinese strategy for the company.

The deal was brokered by Brendan Deneen, head of Macmillan Entertainment, on behalf of Tanya McKinnon at McKinnon McIntyre Literary. Deneen and Mark Siegel, editorial director of Macmillan graphic novel division First Second, are attached to executive produce on behalf of Macmillan.

Elsewhere in Toronto, China Lion Film Distribution acquired the sales rights for North America and Australia/New Zealand to Chinese director Ning Hao’s latest movie, Breakup Buddies from the indie film financing group IM Global.

A road movie about two friends who travel across China after one is heartbroken after a divorce, Breakup Buddies reunites Xu Zheng and Huang Bo, who featured in the mainland hit Lost in Thailand, which took over $200 million at the Chinese box office.

Ning made his name with Crazy Stone and last year won critical praise for No Man's Land, which was released after being held up by censors.