'Bodyguards and Assassins' helps Chinese cinema enter the big leagues

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The Independent Culture

It has been a big year for Chinese cinema -- and it's about to get even bigger. The Teddy Chan-directed Bodyguards and Assassins opens this Friday, December 18 -- a star-studded action adventure produced by a brand new studio that hopes to establish Chinese film as a major international force.

(Relaxnews) -

It has been a big year for Chinese cinema - and it's about to get even bigger. The Teddy Chan-directed Bodyguards and Assassins opens this Friday, December 18 - a star-studded action adventure produced by a brand new studio that hopes to establish Chinese film as a major international force.

The US$23 million (€16 million) production is the first to come under the umbrella of Cinema Popular (http://www.cinemapopular.com), a collaboration between Hong Kong producer-director Peter Chan, mainland Chinese producer Huang Jin-xin's We Pictures and China's Polybona International production house.

And when Chan announced the film back in March, he made it crystal clear that it would be the first of many. "The Chinese market is growing at an astonishing rate,'' he said. "And the whole world is watching. We want to harness all the talent there is and start to produce films on a truly international scale.''

Hence Bodyguards and Assassins has gathered the talents of Chen - a Hong Kong-based director who guided Jackie Chan in the Hollywood-funded Accidental Spy (2001) - and some of the biggest names in Chinese cinema, among them action star Donnie Yen, the veteran Wang Xueqi, Hong Kong heartthrob Nicolas Tse, acclaimed actor-singer Leon Lai and one of the most popular female actress in mainland China, Fan Bingbing.

The film is set in the Hong Kong of 1905 and focuses on a group of bodyguards sent to protect the revolutionary hero Dr Sun Yat-sen from assassination.

On Friday, Bodyguards and Assassins goes into wide-release throughout China - and its producers have been busy visiting film festivals in recent months trying to drum up support for an international release.

Chinese cinema has been enjoying a record-breaking year in 2009 with - on average - a new theatre opening every day in mainland China. The locally produced epic The Founding of a Republic - made to the mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic - in November became the highest-grossing film in the country's history, when it passed the 406 million yuan (€40 million) mark.

More and more international filmmakers are looking to find a way to tap in to the mainland Chinese box office which is growing by 25 percent per year. In 2008, the country's cinema ticket sales were worth 4.3 billion yuan (€430 million).

MS

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