EXCLUSIVE: Chinese director Tan Bing, whose Bai Ling starrer The Fatal Contract is being launched in Berlin, has lifted the lid on his decision to work with the controversial actress as well as the growing opportunities for Chinese directors.

Tricoast Worldwide is selling The Fatal Contract, which stars Ling as a local bartender in the middle of a police investigation following the death of a local painter, at EFM alongside Bing’s previous film China Salesman, which features a fight scene between Mike Tyson and Steven Seagal.

Bing tells Deadline, “I happened to know a painter a couple of years ago. This guy got famous by drawing dead people. I was inspired by his story and had the urge to do this.  After years of preparation, I finally made a film, which describes a painter, who had to make a choice between life and death, drew himself and his lover into deep waters.”

He added that he was excited that the picture is being sold in Berlin because the festival can be “measure of success”. The film is drawing interest largely because of Ling’s appearance; the actress has starred in films including The Crow, Oliver Stone’s Nixon and Spike Lee’s She Hates Me as well as U.S. TV series such as Entourage and Lost. However, it is her first Chinese movie since since she was banned from the country for openly criticizing government officials.

Bing says that it was a “dream” to work with Ling. However, he said he wasn’t worried about her controversial past. “There was a moment when she caused a controversy, but that was long time ago. It is wide open in China now, and she has done many movies in China.  Her talent has been well recognized and accepted by Chinese and international audiences.”

The Chinese box office has been growing rapidly, with some reports that it has grown by around 35% over the last five years. It was expected to overtake the U.S. as the largest movie market in the world in 2017 but this has now been delayed for another couple of years.

Bing says that the Chinese movie market has a lot of “potential” but added there are still a lot of things that it needs to improve.  “In order to let more audiences from more countries to watch Chinese films, our filmmakers still need to keep trying hard.  Obviously, we have a long way to go.

“Since the economy beefs up in China, our filmmakers have more and more opportunities to get the budgets to make movies.  I believe, in the next ten years, Chinese films will be advancing in leaps and bounds, and also a wider variety of movies will thrive. Chinese films will move up to a higher position and win more respect.”

Bing is now lining up his next project, recently having finished a scripts about China’s high-speed rail network that he hopes will start shooting later this year.