Director Jia Zhangke’s resumé is one that’s not without its fair share of intrigue and controversy. Regarded highly as a “Sixth Generation” undergroud filmmaker, he’s been well awarded in festivals throughout the world for up to 15 years as one with an artful approach to cinema that touches grimly close to the turmoil and inflammatory issues embedded in China’s own history and evolution over the years.
Such an approach hasn’t hugely sat well with China’s own governing bodies, especially with Zhangke’s 2013 drama, A Touch Of Sin, which was partly state-backed and subsequently denied a release that year apart from its screenings elsewhere. Still, as far as accomplishments go, Zhangke now finds himself embarking as a prospective director of his first martial arts action movie, announced this weekend by Hong Kong’s own Media Asia Films at the European Film Market in Berlin.
Screendaily reports the late Qing Dynasty-set film will focus on the clashes between scholars, bandits and local officials after the abolition of the Confucian-centric imperial examination system. That said, Media Asia general manager and international sales head, Fred Tsui, partook in the announcement, affirming that Zhangke’s penchant for grounding his films in the similar themes and tones he’s become known for will still be present while exploring his own vision for stylish martial arts action cinema. “The script touches on social and geopolitical issues, as Jia Zhangke’s films usually do,” said Tsui, “…but he’s also a huge fan of Hong Kong-style action so this will be a martial arts genre title,”.
Fellow film auteur Johnnie To is producing Zhangke’s film which is expected to begin rolling cameras this Spring. To’s latest producing credit, Trivisa, and directing gig on the Louis Koo and Vicky Zhao crime pic, Three, are set up for screening audiences at the European Film Market this week.
The news of Zhangke’s new martial arts venture comes as North America currently awaits a pending release of his 2015 Cannes headliner, Mountains May Depart, courtesy of Kino Lorber and starring wife and actress Zhao Tao. His yet-to-be titled Qing martial arts drama joins one of several of Media Asia’s titles this week including Gordon Chan’s recently wrapped God Of War and John Woo’s crime novel readaptation of Sato Junya’s 1976 film, Manhunt which is currently casting.