New Year Hit ‘Hidden Blade,’ ‘Antikalpa’ Head Berlin Slate for Distribution Workshop

Taipei- and Hong Kong-based sales agency Distribution Workshop heads to Berlin with a rich slate that includes one of the mainland Chinese hits from the recent Lunar New Year season and an anticipated supernatural horror film from Taiwan. The company will present to buyers in person at Berlin’s European Film Market next week.

Starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai (“In the Mood for Love,” “Lust, Caution”) and pop star turned actor Wang Yibo, Huang Lei and Zhou Xun (“Cloud Atlas,” “Painted Skin”), “Hidden Blade” is a lusciously presented espionage story that runs from the 1920s to the period Second Sino-Chinese War (also known as the War to Resist Japanese Aggression, and a conflict which merged into WWII in the Far East). It is directed by Cheng Er, who previously directed 2017’s “The Wasted Times.”

(Wang and Zhou also both appear in “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” a Chinese short film by Zhang Dalei that plays in next week’s Berlin short film competition.)

As nationalist, Communist and Japanese factions fan out across China and Japanese-occupied Manchuria, the narrative sees espionage agencies operating behind enemy lines, trading information and attempting to eliminate traitors.

The film released on Jan. 22 and has a running box office total of $117 million. It will release in North America from Feb. 17, through WellGo USA.

Production was by Bona Film Group, with which Distribution Workshop co-founder Jeffrey Chan is closely affiliated.

The agency’s back catalog contains other patriotic Chinese titles, including “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” which in 2019 became the highest-grossing film of all time in China, and its 2020 sequel “The Battle at Lake Changjin II,” which is the eighth biggest film in China.

But Distribution Workshop’s stock-in-trade is the cream of Taiwan’s indie scene. These include “Antikalpa,” the much decorated “Coo-Coo 043” and Arvin Chen’s “Mama Boy.”

Directed by Philip Shih (U.S. titles “Reaper,” “The Battle for Skylark”) and adapted from a bestselling novel by Ling Jing, “Antikalpa” sees a group of young friends dabble in black magic in order to try to locate a missing aunt. One by one they die, and one of them tries to use an exorcism to bring them back from the abyss. The film is in post-production.

“Coo-Coo 043” is a family drama set in the world of pigeon racing, that was the opening title of last year’s Golden Horse Film Festival and collected a huge 13 nominations at the Golden Horse Film Awards.
Chen’s “Mama Boy” is a 2022 romantic drama film that stars Kai Ko and Vivian Hsu, and was set as the opener of last year’s Taipei Film Festival.

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