France's Annaud to direct 'Wolf Totem' in China


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 18, 2009 at 1:11 PM EDT

French director Jean-Jacques Annaud on Tuesday unveiled his plans to film the screen adaptation of the award-winning best-seller "Wolf Totem" in China, his first project in the giant Asian nation.

Annaud, best known for films such as "Two Brothers", "The Bear", "The Lover" and "The Name of the Rose", just returned from Inner Mongolia and Mongolia proper, where he scouted film sites with the book's author Jiang Rong.

"Wolf Totem", which won the Asian equivalent of the Booker Prize in 2007, is a fictional account of life in the 1970s in the remote China-Mongolia border region, and the struggle between tradition and modernity.

"My interest in the relationship between humans and animals is magnificently described by this book," Annaud told reporters.

"It's the story of a young man who discovers a civilisation -- that has been the theme in many of my films."

The novel has been a massive hit in China, with more than 2.6 million official copies -- and more than 17 million pirated copies -- sold since 2004. The book has been translated into several foreign languages including English.

Jiang Rong is a pseudonym, as the author is a former Chinese political prisoner jailed for taking part in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests.

Annaud said he was approached by a Chinese production house, Beijing Forbidden City Corp, to work on the project. He has just begun writing the script and said he hopes to begin filming in 2011.

"It's a difficult script to write, I'll need at least six months," he said.

The French filmmaker said he was looking forward to working in China, and said the criticism he received from authorities over "Seven Years in Tibet", which offered a sympathetic portrayal of the Dalai Lama, was in the past.

"I told them right away that I had done that film, but they told me that the situation had changed, that mentalities had evolved, that it was in the past," he said.

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