The Berlinale Film Festival has unveiled the jury members for its main International Competition, which will be presided over by Kristin Stewart.
The Berlinale Film Festival has unveiled the jury members for its main International Competition, which will be presided over by Kristin Stewart.
Patrick Frater Asia Bureau Chief Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce and media group, unveiled a top to bottom corporate restructuring that it says is intended to “unlock shareholder value and foster market competitiveness.” The group, which has a current market capitalization of $228 billion, will split itself into six divisions of differing sizes. Each unit will have a CEO and a board of directors and can pursue independent fund-raising or even IPOs, when they are ready. At present Alibaba has its shares and ADR shares listed in Hong Kong and New York. Some parts of its media business also have their own Hong Kong share listing Alibaba Pictures. (And there is a healthcare business with yet another share quote.)
Tatiana Siegel On a chilly Oscars eve, Donnie Yen has just returned from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, where he was rehearsing for the Academy Awards along with a slew of fellow global superstar presenters like Spain’s Antonio Banderas and India’s Deepika Padukone. The “John Wick: Chapter 4” scene-stealer, who hails from southern China, feels good about how the following night might unfold, namely for his friend and Hong Kong neighbor Michelle Yeoh. Her victory and that of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” would be a landmark moment for Asian representation, he says. “I’ve known her for more than 20 years, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here — to support her and share in a possible historical moment,” he says of his “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” co-star. “And ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ has a lot of Chinese language and it talks about the Chinese heritage, which I find out has been so accepted and embraced here. So, that really warmed my heart. I’m sure hoping for Michelle.”
Nick Vivarelli International Correspondent The Venice Film Festival will honor “The Night Porter” director Liliana Cavani and Tony Leung Chiu-wai, the Hong Kong star of “In the Mood for Love” and Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” with its 2023 Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement. Cavani first attended Venice in 1965 with the historical doc “Philippe Pétain: Processo a Vichy,” which won the Lion of San Marco for best documentary. She was back the Lido in 1966 with her TV movie “Saint Francis of Assisi,” and, again, in 1968, with “Galileo,” followed by Patricia Highsmith adaptation “Ripley’s Game,” starring John Malkovich, in 2002 and “Clarisse,” a doc about an order of cloistered nuns in 2012.
Jennifer Maas TV Business Writer Jimmy O. Yang and Amazon are back in the funny business: The “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Love Hard” and “Silicon Valley” star has lined up his second standup comedy special with streamer Prime Video, titled “Guess How Much?” Set to launch May 2, the event is a followup to Yang’s first Amazon comedy special, “Good Deal,” which launched in August 2020. In his new standup engagement, Yang will poke fun at “love languages, loser friends, and negotiating with his Asian parents,” per Prime Video. Aside from his memorable parts in “Crazy Rich Asians,” Netflix’s “Love Hard” and HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” Yang is best known as the author of “How to American: An Immigrant’s Guide to Disappointing Your Parents,” which chronicles his journey from life as a young Chinese immigrant to becoming a comedian and actor.
who last week announced she is pregnant, was called to give up the $10,000 she was paid, plus interest, and pay a $30,000 fine, according an SEC complaint. A spokeswoman for Paul declined to comment. Emails left with representatives for the other celebrities named in the SEC complaint weren’t immediately returned Wednesday.
Richard Kuipers The third feature directed by Vietnamese superstar Ngo Thanh Van — better known to western audiences as actor Veronica Ngo in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “The Old Guard” — lives up to its title with a furious display of female revenge set in the seedy streets of late-’90s Ho Chi Minh City. Despite a routine plot and some abrasive tonal shifts, this tale of a motherly mentor turning three damaged young women into deadly assassins is packed with exciting action and boasts fine performances from four killers bound by blood, bullets and all manner of deadly weapons. Following a series of rowdy screenings in SXSW’s Midnighters section, “Furies” will stream worldwide as the first Vietnamese Netflix original feature on March 23.
increasing censorship in the city.Film distributor VII Pillars Entertainment announced on Facebook that the release of “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” on Thursday had been canceled with “great regret” in Hong Kong and neighboring Macao.In an email reply to The Associated Press, the distributor said it was notified by cinemas that they could not show the film as scheduled, but it didn’t know why. The cinema chains involved did not immediately reply to a request for comment.For many residents, the Winnie the Pooh character is a playful taunt of China’s President Xi Jinping and Chinese censors in the past had briefly banned social media searches for the bear in the country.
Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey was due to take place in the special administrative region of China this week. However, it would seem that the horror film‘s release has now been cancelled without a reason being provided.VII Pillars Entertainment said on its Meta socials (both Facebook and Instagram) that it was with “great regret” that the scheduled release of the film on 23 March had been cancelled.
Patrick Frater Asia Bureau Chief The theatrical release of low-budget slasher movie “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” in Hong Kong has been abruptly canceled just two days before its scheduled outing. No explanation has been offered, but suspicions that the film may have crossed one of Hong Kong’s increasingly complicated political red lines are certain to be raised. That is because the Winnie the Pooh character is unflatteringly perceived to have a physical resemblance to China’s president, Xi Jinping. Online search for Winnie the Pooh is heavily censored within mainland China and Winnie the Pooh products are not distributed. China did not permit the import and release of Disney’s 2018 Winnie the Pooh film “Christopher Robin.”
Leo Barraclough International Features Editor Toronto’s Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, has added 12 films to its Special Presentations program. The first tranche of titles was announced March 14. The festival runs April 27 to May 7. World premieres include Canadian journalist Michelle Shephard’s “The Man Who Stole Einstein’s Brain,” the uncovering of the story behind the pathologist who stole the genius’ brain in 1955; “The Rise of Wagner,” a chilling exposé on the collusion between Wagner Group mercenaries and the Kremlin, which has resulted in secret killings and countless human rights violations; “We Are Guardians,” the story of the Indigenous guardians of the Brazilian Amazon, struggling to protect their territories from the ravages of extractive industries, deforestation, corrupt politicians and profit hungry global corporations; “Who’s Afraid of Nathan Law?,” a chronicle of dissident Hong Kong politician and activist Nathan Law’s fight for democracy; and director Barry Avrich’s “Without Precedent: The Supreme Life of Rosalie Abella,” a portrait of Canada’s first Jewish Supreme Court judge, a passionate advocate for the disabled community and visible minorities.
Patrick Frater Asia Bureau Chief Tencent Music Entertainment grew its 2022 profits by 21% to $533 million (RMB3.68 billion), helped by cost cutting and a growing subscription base. It achieved this despite a 9% decrease in revenues to $4.1 billion (RMB28.3 billion). The group, which is backed by Chinese tech and entertainment giant Tencent and has stock market listings on the New York Stock Exchange and in Hong Kong, is China’s largest digital music outfit and controls large equity stakes in Spotify and (in a consortium with Tencent) Universal Music Group. Tencent Music’s own operations divide loosely into two clusters: mass market music streaming, with paid-for and free tiers; and “social entertainment,” including karaoke and other derivative products.
NCT Dream have unveiled an English-language version of their hit 2022 single, ‘Beatbox’.The English version of ‘Beatbox’ was released alongside a lyric video, which features behind-the-scenes footage of the boyband at the photoshoot for song.“Yeah, hands up to the top, bring ’em up / Make a beatbox-box and it bump / Everywhere I go make the room hop / Everywhere I go, bring the beatbox,” the boyband sing on the chorus.The English remake of ‘Beatbox’ arrives just weeks ahead of the upcoming North American leg of NCT Dream’s ‘The Dream Show 2: In a Dream’ world tour.The boyband are set to play seven shows across the US, including the states of California, New Jersey and Texas. Tickets for the show are available now via Ticketmaster.NCT Dream are currently set to wrap up the first Asian leg of their tour with a show in Hong Kong this Saturday (March 25).
Oscar-winning actress Michelle Yeoh's acting roots can be traced back to Manchester, as the city's Metropolitan university has revealed she graduated with a BA in creative arts in 1983.
Patrick Frater Asia Bureau Chief Indonesian horror feature “Losmen Melati” (aka “Motel Melati”) has set theatrical releases in Malaysian and Singaporean cinemas on April 6, and April 13, respectively, following its release in Indonesia on Thursday. The film is co-directed by Mike Wiluan and Billy Christian. It tells the story of a secluded and enigmatic guest house, run by its mystifying owner, Madam Melati. As she lures in unsuspecting visitors to the guest house, they are confronted with their worst nightmares, never to be seen again. The movie features a cast of Alexandra Gottardo (“Tanah Air Beta”), Kiki Narendra (“Perempuan Tanah Jahanam”), Fandy Christian (“Letters for You”) and Samuel Panjaitan (“Ghost also Selfie”). Presented by streamer Catchplay and Infinite Studios, “Losmen Melati” is co-distributed by Clover Films and Golden Village Pictures in Singapore.
Patrick Frater Asia Bureau Chief “Like & Share” from Indonesia’s Gina S. Noer was named the best picture and collected the Grand Prix on Sunday at the Osaka Asian Film Festival. “All of us on the jury were struck by the film’s clear and powerful message, which affirms young women’s sexual curiosity and desire while clearly saying no to sexual violence. The style of the film is also original. The sweet, poppy feeling that fascinates the audience in the first half of the film becomes darker as the story progresses, making us shudder. “Like & Share,” with its strong message and brilliant direction, is a film that needs to be seen now more than ever,” said the jury in a statement.
Vivienne Chow To the 12 members of Mirror, forming a boy band and becoming Hong Kong’s Canto-pop singing sensation upon winning a reality show in 2018 was a dream come true. Five years on, the boys are dreaming bigger than ever. “Some of us really want to join Marvel,” Mirror member Edan Lui tells Variety in an interview. The statement may come across as a joke. But no, it is not, as fellow member Anson Lo, Lui’s co-star in the 2021 hit ViuTV BL drama “Ossan’s Love Hong Kong,” echoes: “We want to get on some talk shows in the U.S. as well, or any Hollywood movies, TV, live performances. Yes, please invite us.” The band’s Hollywood wishlist did not emerge just out of the blue. It came after the recording of their English debut single “Rumours,” a catchy EDM-influenced tune that has just been released worldwide Friday (March 17), along with a storied music video that follows the 12 members — Frankie Chan, Alton Wong, Lokman Yeung, Stanley Yau, Anson Kong, Jer Lau, Ian Chan, Jeremy Lee, Keung To, Tiger Yau, Lui and Lo — on a secret mission after a mysterious girl, jammed with dance sequences set in the Hong Kong streetscape.
MAMAMOO is coming!
Although Filmart felt quiet on its first morning, with many attendees glued to their phones watching the Oscars, it soon turned into a reasonably vibrant market, with sales companies locked in back-to-back meetings, new project announcements and a few star appearances to liven up proceedings.
Patrick Frater Asia Bureau Chief The Hong Kong Trade Development Council said Thursday that 7,300 executives from 41 countries had attended its FilMart and Entertainment Pulse events this week (March 13-16). “The revived physical marketplace was as vibrant and active as in the past,” organizers claimed. In 2019, the last year that FilMart was held as an in-person event, the TDC reported “close to 9,000 visitors from 52 countries and regions.” For 2023, it reported “over 700 exhibitors from 30 countries and regions,” including a record Mainland China exhibitor tally exceeding 330. Those numbers compared with 888 exhibitors from 35 countries and regions in 2019, including 264 exhibitors from China.
MAMAMOO are set to embark on their first-ever tour of the US as part of their wider ‘MY CON’ world tour.Today (March 15), the quartet officially announced that they would be going on their first North American tour, which will comprise shows in nine cities on both coasts, as well as southern and midwestern markets, over two months.MAMAMOO’s US tour will first kick off on May 16 in New York, before heading down the coast to Baltimore, Maryland and Atlanta, Georgia. The girl group will then head down south, with shows in Tennessee, Texas and Arizona.
Everything Everywhere All at Once” — his first major role in 30 years.“Everything is still so fresh in my mind,” he told Variety in an interview published Wednesday. “And that’s why moving forward I’m still really scared.“Even though I just won an Oscar, I’m still really fearful of what tomorrow brings,” he shared.Quan, an immigrant from Vietnam, had his first acting role in the Harrison Ford-starring movie “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” when he was just 12 years old. The next summer, he played Data in the movie “The Goonies” — but that was it.Until now.“I had a conversation with my agent, and I said, ‘I’m so worried that this is only a one-time thing,'” Quan told Variety about his recent successes.
Todd Gilchrist editor Producer Nina Yang Bongiovi admits her enthusiasm for being recognized for the profound social and cultural weight of her output. “Usually producers are kicked to the curb when a movie is released,” she says, laughing.
Patrick Frater Asia Bureau Chief “We 12,” a movie featuring the entire group of 12 Mirror Canto-pop stars is part of the expanding production slate of Makerville, the talent and production arm of Hong Kong telecoms and TV group PCCW. The development is paralleled by an expansion of the production operations of Viu, PCCW’s multi-territory video streamer which recently confirmed its profitability. Makerville is the talent agency behind Mirror, which was created in 2018 through the “Good Night Show – Kingmaker” talent show on ViuTV, a PCCW terrestrial channel. And it was able to put all the band members on stage Wednesday at a promotional event within the FilMart rights market in Hong Kong.
Naman Ramachandran The future is Web3 was the consensus at a high-powered panel discussing the subject at Hong Kong’s FilMart on Wednesday. Weighing in with their knowledge and experience were Evan Auyang, group president, Animoca Brands; Jenefer Brown, executive VP and head of global products and experiences, Lionsgate; Lucas Cheungmanaging partner, Hong Kong, Gusto Collective and Jaeson Ma co-founder, 88rising, OP3N and EST Media. For the benefit of the lay people in the audience, Ma provided a handy definition of what exactly Web3 is. Ma explained that web1 was a phase where people could search for and read content, web2 is where companies were able to publish content and web3 is all about ownership.
Patrick Frater Asia Bureau Chief “Fly Me to the Moon,” a work-in-progress from Hong Kong, dominated the prizes presented at the Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum project market. It collected five awards and was invited to continue its journey at Cannes in May. Directed by first-time feature maker Sasha Chuk and produced by the veteran Stanley Kwan, the film tells the tale of a pair of sisters moving from Hunan to Hong Kong in the 1990s. They are faced with an identity crisis, poverty and their father’s drug addiction. It entered the market with $640,000 of its intended $705,000 production budget in place, and more than filled the gap with the prizes announced on Wednesday.
Naman Ramachandran “White Snow,” the latest project from celebrated Indian filmmaker Praveen Morchhale, is his “artistic revolt” against political systems that repress artists. The project has been selected for the 21st Hong Kong — Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), the project market that operates concurrently with FilMart (March 13-16). Set in and around Kargil, a Muslim-dominated town in the Himalayas, where a war was fought between India and Pakistan in 1999, the film tells the story of Amir, whose short film gets banned due to a complaint from a religious leader, and his social media accounts gets blocked. His elderly mother Fatima sets out on an arduous journey in the Himalayan mountains to show the film in villages, which breaks her mentally and physically and brings her close to madness before she becomes a free soul.
Patrick Frater Asia Bureau Chief Kowloon Walled City — one of Hong Kong’s most famous landmarks, or infamous trouble spots, depending on your point of view — fell prey to the developers’ bulldozer 30 years ago. But it remains an icon of the territory’s gritty spirit and is being painstakingly re-created for action thriller feature “Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In.” The film is a beacon for how Hong Kong cinema is now evolving. Directed by hot-shot Soi Cheang, whose “Mad Fate” recently played in Berlin and is set for imminent local release, “Twilight” boasts leading stars Louis Koo, Sammo Hung and Richie Jen, plus emerging talents Philip Ng, Raymond Lau and Terrance Lau.
Naman Ramachandran Nepal’s “Bhunte” marks the feature debut of Bikas Neupane, who previously directed two acclaimed shorts. The project has been selected for the 21st Hong Kong — Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), the project market that operates concurrently with FilMart (March 13-16). The film will follow 12-year-old Bhunte, who lives with his poor father and mother in a small village called Khahare, located in Nepal’s western plains. He has an obsession with soccer, despite his asthma-stricken father’s objection. One day at school, Bhunte vows to buy a soccer ball of his own when his classmates don’t let him play with them.
Naman Ramachandran Iran’s Arsalan Amiri, who won two awards at Venice for his debut feature “Zalava,” is back at the Hong Kong — Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) with his new project, “Janava.” “Zalava,” which was at HAF in 2019, also played at the Toronto, Rotterdam and the Goteborg festivals, among many others. The Farsi-language “Janava” will follow four treasure hunters who embark on a journey to find a lost treasure. Their lives are in danger when they realize a djinn (or genie) is among them and wants to claim the treasure for itself. “My previous film, ‘Zalava,’ focused on the dangerous beliefs of the masses. My second film, ‘Janava,’ focuses on the individual beliefs of characters and how they defy societal norms,” Amiri says. “Belief is my favorite theme to work with. I have faced the good and bad effects of belief in my life — but when these beliefs are warped or taken to extremes by the individual or in politics, it causes the destruction of human societies. My experience living in the Middle East and studying history proves the importance of people’s beliefs. Well, I would also like to make an interesting and entertaining film of course, and this film genre would help to make the concept interesting.”
Naman Ramachandran Taiwan-France film “Salli” marks the feature debut of Taipei-based filmmaker Lien Chien-Hung after several acclaimed shorts and a TV movie. “Salli,” which won the grand prize at the Chinese-language film project matching and co-production platform Golden Horse Film Project Promotion in 2019, is a work-in-progress selection at the Hong Kong — Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF). The Mandarin-, Taiwanese-, English- and French-language film follows a lonely middle-aged chicken farmer Hui-Chun, who doesn’t speak English and develops a romantic relationship through an app with a French man who calls himself Martin. In the online world, Hui-Chun is Salli. Despite everyone calling it a romance scam, she wants to prove that love indeed exists.
Naman Ramachandran Indian production company Turning Point Productions is launching with a streaming series adaptation of Rob Sinclair’s bestselling thriller novel “Sleeper 13,” it was revealed on the sidelines of the 21st Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF). The novel, published by Orion in 2018, follows a protagonist who is smuggled to the Middle East as a child, trained as one of the most elite insurgents of his generation and forced to do things no one should for a cause he couldn’t believe in. But as his brothers were preparing to kill, he was looking for a way out. On the eve of the deadliest coordinated attacks the world has ever seen, he finally has his chance and looks to break free and hunt down those who made him a monster.
Last year, it was announced that John Woo was actually ready to direct a remake of his classic Hong Kong action film, “The Killer.” Well, not only is that still happening, but we now know the two leads that will star in the film. According to Deadline, Nathalie Emmanuel and Omar Sy are set to star opposite each other in John Woo’s upcoming “The Killer” remake.
Nick Vivarelli International Correspondent “The Last of Us” has become the most-viewed title ever on HBO’s subscription streaming service in Europe. Warner Bros. Discovery announced on Tuesday that the first season of the nine-episode apocalyptic-drama has smashed HBO’s SVOD European viewer ratings. This result comes after the season one finale set another ratings high in the U.S. on Sunday night, delivering 8.2 million viewers across HBO Max and linear telecasts, based on Nielsen and first party data. The series, which is based on the critically acclaimed video game of the same name developed by Naughty Dog for the PlayStation, has been a hit from the get go. “The Last of Us” is now averaging 30.4 million viewers in the U.S. across its first six episodes, according to HBO, with the first episode approaching 40 million viewers in the U.S. Outside of the U.S.. The show is now also the most-watched show ever on HBO Max in Latin America.
Marcus Lim Chinese TV producer Linmon Media struck a decidedly international tone during the presentation of its 2023-24 slate at FilMart, with presenters speaking about their Chinese-language projects in only English and Korean, and handing out sleek project literature in multiple languages. Apart from a slate of romance, medical and crime dramas targeted at domestic audiences, the studio is actively remaking its hit female-led contemporary drama “Nothing but Thirty” in Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong, having previously licensed the remake rights to Korean pay TV network JTBC. The drama, which follows the lives of three women as they transition from their 20s into their 30s, is emblematic of the Linmon slate, which is heavy on female-centric contemporary romance dramas.
Patrick Frater Asia Bureau Chief U.K.- and Hong Kong-based company Phoenix Waters Prods. has formally partnered with Hong Kong’s Agog Films to create Phoenix Waters Asia, a new venture aimed at increasing content production in Asia. The venture was announced on the sidelines of a film investment conference held Tuesday in Hong Kong at the FilMart rights market, where Phoenix Waters Prods. CEO Bizhan Tong was a speaker. The two companies previously collaborated on “Chungking Mansions,” an ambitious pan-Asian action film on which Tong is director, and where production was previously scheduled for last year. Tong told Variety that lensing will start later this year, “after address any issues that could hinder filming in Hong Kong.”
Naman Ramachandran Singapore-based media and entertainment company mm2 Asia and Taiwan’s Man Man Er are starting development on series ”Tales of Mystery” (working title), a series borne from the strategic partnership of the pair with Taiwanese intellectual property company Million Star (Huaxing) Entertainment, which was revealed in December 2022. The series was announced at Hong Kong’s ongoing FilMart market. The project is adapted from the bestselling supernatural book series of the same name by popular Taiwanese writer Teensy, who is also the author and creator of “Agent From Above,” which has been adapted into a series for Netflix by mm2.
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