Xinhua-Backed Sunny Sky Media Unveils 'Coming Back' Starring Simon Yam

First-time director Li Yuan helms the Hong Kong actor and model in a comedic crime drama.

SHANGHAI – A comedic crime drama from producer Gordon Chan and starring Echoes of the Rainbow actor Simon Yam is among the first projects from Sunny Sky Media Group, a newly-established feature film production company backed China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

On the sidelines of the 14th Shanghai International Film Festival, Sunny Sky CEO Hu Mengxin told The Hollywood Reporter the Beijing-based company she runs invested 15 million yuan ($2.3 million) in the film, called Coming Back, which is set to release in July in partnership with the state-run China Film Group, the nation’s largest distributor.

“Our business plan is to make films with Chinese multicultural and ethnic topics and distribute them outside China through Xinhua’s new television network,” Hu said, adding that two more films are now in the works in the company’s first year.

In October last year, Xinhua launched a global English-language television channel as part of efforts to expand its influence abroad.

In Coming Back, which was shot in Mandarin, Yam plays a painter who restores art to increase its value. He’s also a father of an estranged daughter struggling with two personalities, one dark and one light, reflected, Yam said, in the alternately black and pink socks he brought to his screen costumes.

“I’ve done a lot of heavy movies, but this one will have some comedy in it,” Yam told The Hollywood Reporter.

Yam, a Hong Kong film and TV fixture since the 1970s, appeared in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie and in scores of Hong Kong action films such as Full Contact with superstar Chow Yun-fat.

Freshman director Li Yuan was a pleasure to work with, Yam told THR: “It’s great to work with new directors. They’re not so square. They give you a circle to put a lot of creativity into,” Yam, who also starred in Ip Man 2 last year, told THR.

Yam, who starred in the 1989 Japanese-Hong Kong co-production Bloodfight, the first of its kind shot entirely in English, said that though he’s keen to see more co-productions in China, he has little desire to work in Hollywood.

“I just finished a love story in Paris and love French films, but Hollywood films are too patterned. I prefer to work in China,” Yam said, calling himself a “small potato” in the Chinese industry who’s happy to support China’s film festivals.

China’s box office jumped 54% last year to $1.5 billion, largely on the strength of Hollywood imports. Meanwhile, few Chinese films make it in the U.S. “There has to be more crossover,” Yam said.

To help that crossover, the film’s international sales effort is being led by the Beijing office of Hong Kong-based Dadi Media Group, operator of China’s seventh-largest and, in the first quarter this year, the fastest-growing cinema chain in terms of box office gross, according to regional film industry consultancy Artisan Gateway.

Dadi,whose CEO Rachel Liu will soon visit Hollywood, also recently entered the production, distribution and sales end of the business and hopes to get into co-productions, too, Guo said.