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A movie crew? That's what friends are for
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"I can say that my name in China is more attractive to film goers than any star," local director Feng Xiaogang told Korean filmmaker Je-gyu Kang last week at the Beijing Film Academy.

Feng was at the academy discussing Assembly (Jijie Hao), his opus about an army officer's fight for recognition for his dead comrades during the Chinese civil war (1945-49).

For the film, Feng used a 25-person crew that was introduced to him by Kang. Most of them worked with Kang on his previous films, Swiri and Brotherhood, both regarded as critical and financial milestones in South Korea.

The two directors first met when Feng was working on A World without Thieves (Tianxia Wuzei), the story of two criminals and a migrant worker.

"He is different to all the other Chinese directors I know," Kang says. "His films are also different from any other Chinese films I have seen, with a totally fresh story telling style."

Despite boasting a US$10 million budget, Assembly has no superstars in its cast, which "scared" Kang.

"If I was handling a big budget, I wouldn't dare not to use super stars," Kang says.

But Feng says he was totally confident about the film's box office appeal despite the absence of big actors.

"I am the guarantee of box office performance," he says.

Even though Assembly, a war film, is a departure from the comedies he is famous for, Feng says he has long wanted to explore the genre.

"I am a huge fan of war films. In my heart, Saving Private Ryan, Wind Talker and Thin Red Line are all quality war films," Feng says. "But when I see them, I always feel like they are out of my reach, because they require at least $100 million to make. But when I saw Kang's Brotherhood, I got excited. A film costing only US$15 million can be that good! I thought I should give it a try too."

Feng thought of using a Hollywood team for the sound effects and explosions, but the cost was too high. Seeing that his friend was having difficulties, Kang suggested his old buddies for the job. It is actions like this, Kang says, that he hopes will promote cooperation between Asian countries.

"In the 1960s, Japanese films were hot. Two decades later, Hong Kong films became very popular. After 2000, Korean films began grabbing people's attention," he says. "In such a global era, Asia is a bigger and more important market as a whole. Only through cooperation can we compete with European films."

Assembly will hit China's theaters on December 20.

(China Daily November 7, 2007)

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