Two of mainland China's leading film-makers - Zhang Yimou and Jiang Wen -are currently working on new projects that look set to raise considerableinterest in international markets.

Following his quietdrama Riding Alone ForThousands Of Miles, Zhang Yimou is returning to the big-budget arenawith a $45m costume drama, starring Chow Yun-fat and Gong Li, which is scheduledto start shooting at the end of February.

The film, whichhas the Chinese title Man Cheng Jin DaiHuang Jin Jia (literally The CityFilled With Golden Armour), reteams much of the talent that worked onZhang's martial arts epics Hero and House Of Flying Daggers, including actiondirector Tony Ching Siu-tung and production designer Huo Tingxiao. As withZhang's last three films, Beijing New Picture Film Co and Edko Films' Bill Kongwill co-produce.

Loosely based ona play by contemporary writer Cao Yu, but transported back in time to the TangDynasty, the film revolves around a power struggle within the imperial palace. Principalphotography will take place at Hengdian World Studios and locations in Yunnanprovince and Chongqing.

Around 20,000soldiers from the People's Liberation Army will be used for the battlesequences and an unnamed US company has come on board for the special effects.

The filmcontinues the trend of big-budget costume epics which have kept the Chinesefilm industry afloat in recent years. Although it had a mixed criticalreaction, Chen Kaige's The Promise(aka Master Of The Crimson Armour)rang up $22m in China last December while Ronny Yu's Fearless, produced by Kong, grossed $1.6m on its opening day inChina last week.

Two morehistorical epics, Feng Xiaogang's TheBanquet and Jacob Cheung's Battle Of Wits, are set for release in the fourth quarter ofthis year. Zhang's new film could also be ready by December 2006.

Meanwhile,actor-filmmaker Jiang Wen is currently shooting The Sun Also Rises, his third film asdirector following the critically acclaimed InThe Heat Of The Sun and Devils On The Doorstep. Backed by Beijing-based Taihe FilmInvestment and as-yet-unnamed international partners, the $6.8m film comprisesfour stories revolving around one man's loves, friendships and enemies inremote corners of China from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Jiang also stars in the film along with AnthonyWong, Jackie Chan's son Jaycee Chan and actresses Joan Chen and Zhou Yun. Productionstarted quietly last October in Yunnan and Xinjiang and is scheduled to continueuntil the end of February for delivery next year.

In addition, thereare several projects in post-production in China, thatshould appear at international festivals later in the year. These include TianZhuangzhuang's long-cherished biopic of legendary Go player Wu Qingyuan,starring Chang Chen and Sylvia Chang, Lou Ye's Summer Palace and Wang Chao's LuxuryCar.

On a more commercialnote, Jackie Chan recently started filming a second action comedy with directorBenny Chan following New Police Storywhich was a hit across Asia in 2004. The $17m film, which has the working titleProject BB, stars Chan, Louis Koo,Michael Hui and mainland actress Gao Yuanyuan in thestory of three bumbling crooks who find themselves the unwilling guardians of ababy boy.

The film,co-produced by Chan's JCE Movies and Beijing-based Huayi Brothers, started shootingat the end of 2005 and is scheduled to wrap in April for release around thetime of China's National Day holiday in September.

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