At the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), Tibetan director Phakpa and producer He Bin have revealed further details about romance film Dark Eyes, produced by Wen Muye’s General Dream Studio.
Wen’s mainland China box office hit Dying To Survive also started out as a HAF project and the director has been supporting younger filmmakers through his production company.
Based on author Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s Japanese novel Hell Screen and Phakpa’s own experiences, the film tells the story of a young man who is preparing to be ordained as a Buddhist monk. But when his Buddhist master’s niece, a young blind girl, enters his world, he begins to question everything.
Casting of a Tibetan actor and actress is in progress. Producer He Bin, vice president at General Dream Studio, shared that the script has passed censorship and they are planning to start shooting in autumn with an aim to have the film completed by May 2024.
He said they got to know Phakpa at last year’s China Film Director’s Guild (CFDG) Young Director Support Programme, where he was named one of the top five best young directors and Dark Eyes won $145,000 (RMB100m).
General Dream Studio has committed up to 80% of the film’s $700,000 budget, including the CFDG award money, and is looking for investment, co-production and film festival opportunities at HAF, where it has been selected as an in-development project.
Phakpa, He and Wen all went to the Beijing Film Academy in different years, but all had Fifth Generation director Tian Zhuangzhuang (The Go Master) as a teacher. Tian is also attached as a producer on Dark Eyes.
“It’s a love story full of emotions,” He told Screen. “It’s from Tibet but it’s not just a Tibetan story or an inner China story. It is open-minded and talks about love, religion and philosophy. It’s a small budget arthouse film but we’re aiming for the commercial market at least in mainland China. I think it has a lot of potential to go to international markets.
“We believe Dark Eyes is a film that can work in the commercial market as a popular film. The emotion is direct and it won’t be hindered by cultural differences.”
Phakba said he chose to work with Wen because, “he is brilliant”.
Producer He elaborated by saying Wen has helped in positioning the film, offering some visual direction and creative assistance in the creative advice but “won’t interfere fully” as the company produces more younger filmmakers’ work aside from Wen’s own films that he directs.
“Wen has a very good eye commercially and also creatively,” He added. “He has provided creative assistance to other directors in the creative process. At the same time, the company has more resources to help out other filmmakers to realise their dream.”