Netherlands and HongKong-based Fortissimo Film Sales has picked up Seven Swords, the newfilm by celebrated Asian action director Tsui Hark.

The $18m film, which is nowin production, is a return to the martial arts action-adventure genre whichTsui was instrumental in shaping earlier in has career. It is also the biggestinvestment to date by the fast-rising Fortissimo. The sales company isunderstood to have invested "mid-seven figures" in a deal that gives it aposition in the film and sales rights outside Japan and Asia.

The film is produced byNansun Shi's Hong Kong-based Film Workshop and Mandarin Films. It is structuredas a Hong-Kong-Chinese co-production and involves Chinese private sector equityand a Korean media editor.

"We had been looking for the right project to enter the martialarts scene. When producer Nansun Shi came to us with Seven Swordswe instantly knew that this was the project for us," said Fortissimoco-chairmen Michael J Werner and Wouter Barendrecht. "As the only bigbudget martial arts film currently in production and scheduled for a 2005release, we felt the film would offer international buyers a tremendousopportunity to acquire a studio level film." Fortissimo has previously workedwith Tsui and Shi on films including The Era Of Vampires and theanimated version of Chinese Ghost Story, but the move appearsparticularly well-timed following the gathering international success of ZhangYimou's Hero and House Of The Flying Daggers.

Seven Swords is adapted by Tsui, Chi-Sing Chzung and Tin-NamChun from a classic novel by Liang Yu-Shen. It tells the story of sevenunlikely heroes gathered together to save a village from the massacre by ageneral who is seeking his fortune through killing.

"It's great for Tsui to be returning to the genre on which hebuilt his career and for which he is considered one of the masters,"saidShi. Tsui, who was this year on the Cannes festival jury, directed Once UponA Time In China and produced John Woo's A Better Tomorrow.

Shooting in some of theremotest parts of China, the film stars Donnie Yen (Hero, Shanghai Knights,Blade II), Asian superstar Leon Lai Ming (Fallen Angels), CharlieYoung (New Police Story, Fallen Angels). It also boasts oneof Asia's top technical crews including Lau Kar Leung (Drunken Monkey, DrunkenMaster II & III) as action director.