Hong Kong director Dante Lam Chiu-Yin is about to finish shooting “Operation Red Sea,” a new film that follows the success of his big action hit from last October, “Operation Mekong.”
The news was announced at the film’s first press conference on Sunday in Zhanjiang, Guangdong, which was attended by Lam and the main cast members, including Zhang Hanyu, Zhang Yi, Du Jiang and Huo Siyan.
The film was inspired by the 2015 crisis in Yemen when China evacuated roughly 600 Chinese citizens and over 200 foreign nationals from the port of Aden in the war-torn country. After rescuing hostages, as part of its evacuation effort, the Jiaolong Commando Unit of China’s marine corps also needs to stop a terrorist conspiracy.
With over RMB500 million in investments, the film is co-produced by Bona Film Group, the same company behind “Operation Mekong,” and the Television Art Center at Naval Political Department of People’s Liberation Army, an official art group.
Because of the official link, as well as its main plots, “Operation Red Sea,” like its sister, Mekong, is seen as a “main melody” film—a China propaganda film.
There have been many efforts to commercialize these films, but none is comparable to Lam’s “Operation Mekong.” Attracting over 37 million viewers, its box office reached almost 1.2 billion making it one of the highest grossing films in China. Comments from both the audience and critics were positive too. Encouraged by the success of Mekong, and right after its release, Bona went to Lam, again, with an idea of another evacuation operation.
Red Sea would inherit many of Mekong’s cast and crew with film star Zhang Hanyu playing the lead in both films. Like Red Sea, it’s also an action film based on recent real world events. Lam insisted on shooting on location for both. After spending over four months in Morocco and Dubai, the team went back to Zhanjiang last month to finish shooting.
Lam, like many of his Hong Kong peers, has been trying to “head north” in recent years. While the Hong Kong market has been struggling, the mainland film industry is exploding. Hong Kong directors have been quite successful so far, despite the occasional setback. According to Ent Group’s ranking list, five of the top 10 grossing films in 2016 were works by Hong Kong directors (Lam ranked sixth).
The release date of “Operation Red Sea” has not yet been announced, but it has been reported that it might be on the big screen this year.