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Johnnie To moves into new territory with "Drug War"

posted 16 Nov 2012, 05:09 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 16 Nov 2012, 05:10 ]

Hong Kong action director Johnnie To presents his new movie "Drug War", his first film shot entirely in mainland China, at the Rome Film Festival.

(HAIRUN MOVIE AND TV GROUP)  - Cult director Johnnie To, who's behind Hong Kong hits including "Election" and "Life Without Principle", is moving into new territory with his new film "Drug War".

The action thriller is To's first movie shot entirely on location in mainland China.

In "Drug War", a group of detectives seek to finish off a large-scale drug ring. Confusion engulfs the operation after the capture of a drug lord, who strikes a deal with the police to help them in order to save himself from death penalty.

"The idea actually came from the fact that not many countries in the world give death sentence to drug traffickers and other criminals, whereas in China you can be sentenced to death even if you traffic a very small amount, it's still a crime punishable by death which is something I found fascinating," the director told Reuters Television at the Rome Film Festival, where the film is screening in competition.

The movie was filmed in the northern port city of Tianjin, which To said he had chosen in order to portray a snowy landscape "like New York in winter".

He also chose the city for its harbour, which lent itself for the film's drug trafficking theme.

To said he had been encouraged by the experience but hoped that conditions in mainland China would become more lenient in the future.

"The mainland China market is of course very important. You find a lot of investors and funding, and it's a very important market also because of the public. The number of audiences is ever growing. It's increasing all the time, and there are more and more people going to see movies. So I think for a filmmaker it's a great place to start, it's a great place to be. However, I do hope that in the future censorship will become a bit more lax and that it will be a little bit more open with more freedom of speech. That way we can have more opportunities to express ourselves with cinema in China and more liberty to do so," To said.

"Drug War" was initially only announced as "Surprise Movie 2" at the Rome Film Festival, with artistic director Marco Mueller earlier saying that two surprise titles could not be announced as they came from countries in which they risked censorship.

The first surprise film screening in Rome was Feng Xiaogang's "Back to 1942".

The seventh edition of the Rome Film Festival runs through November 17.