The director will deliver movies and preside over a creative fund at the film production arm of one of China’s largest online film and TV portals.
HONG KONG – Zhang Yimou was unveiled as the new artistic director for Le Vision Pictures at a press conference in Beijing Monday, with the company also announcing the establishment of a production fund to be overseen by the director.
By joining Le Vision Pictures, the filmmaking arm of the online film and TV portal LeTV, the 61-year-old director brings an end to his spell as an unattached artist after his acrimonious split last year with longtime producer Zhang Weiping and his Beijing New Picture Film Company. The two reportedly parted ways over the lackluster box-office performance of the filmmaker’s 2011 wartime blockbuster The Flowers of War.
Flanked by Le Vision Pictures CEO Zhang Zhao and LeTV’s senior vice president Gao Fei, Zhang Yimou appeared at a press conference in Beijing to mark his new venture, with the company’s online portal letv.com also launching a section on its site dedicated to the director’s past films – a catalog which, the company said, will be made available on SuperTV, the Foxconn-made smart television sets LeTV will bring to the Chinese market in June.
Zhang Yimou’s presence will serve as a further boost to Le Vision Pictures, LeTV’s two-year-old filmmaking subsidiary, which made waves last year for its success in producing local movies (such as the multiply nominated The Bullet Vanishes) as well as financing and distributing Hollywood imports in China, such as The Expendables 2, which took $54.9 million (336 million yuan) in the country despite opening alongside The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man and Prometheus in September 2012.
Le Vision also inked a deal in Beijing last month with Radical Studios, with their jointly owned company Radical Vision China lining up co-productions such as Clans of the Scared Stones, described as a “sci-fi blockbuster inspired by ancient Chinese literature” featuring “some of China’s most famous heroes.” Announced in the Chinese capital last month, the film is about a popular uprising against an evil emperor.
But the announcement was made at an awkward time for both partners in the deal. Acknowledged as the Chinese government’s favorite filmmaker – he was assigned to choreograph the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 – Zhang Yimou has been under fire recently as the Chinese press was inundated with reports about his having fathered seven children, a violation of the country’s one-child policy.
With the authorities having signaled an investigation of his possible transgressions, Zhang Yimou has refused to comment on the allegations, with an article carried by the state-backed Xinhua News Agency quoting the director telling an associate that “if I have to clean myself every time someone pours dirty water on me, I might have to spend my time washing every day – I also wonder where these seven kids came from?”
Meanwhile, LeTV was mired in a more recent controversy. Sharp posted a statement on its official Chinese website on May 27 denying LeTV’s announcement on May 7 that the Japanese TV manufacturer was a part of the SuperTV project.
Gao did not speak to the press at the Beijing press launch, according to a report on sina.com, while Zhang Zhao told reporters he was not in a position to comment as Le Vision Pictures is a separate entity from the arm managing the SuperTV project.
LeTV suspended trading of its stocks on the Shenzhen bourse on May 28.