Netflix Announces First Original Chinese Series ‘Bardo’

It seems like Netflix announces a new international series every day now – and rightfully so. The streaming giant already has a lock on the domestic market and is expanding as fast as it can to stay ahead of rival Amazon Prime on the international scene. Both companies are attempting to break into the notoriously walled-off Chinese video market, facing stiff regulations and arbitrary government crackdowns. Netflix has had some small successes in China recently, signing licensing deals for a few of its original series with Chinese streaming services, while its hit political drama House of Cards remains one of the most popular (and pirated) series in the Middle Kingdom. In what might be an attempt to woo the Chinese market, Netflix has announced its first original Chinese series: Bardo (擺渡身).

Bardo’s Chinese name refers to a god who operates a ferry, hinting at a journey between the worlds of the living and the dead, while the English name is a rough transliteration of baidu, the Chinese word for ferry. Bardo is a prison break tale that incorporates elements of the supernatural while blending Taiwanese mysticism with pan-Asian ideals of karma and destiny. . The story revolves around a good-hearted and well-intentioned prisoner named Ah Quan who is sent to prison after falling into a life of crime out of necessity. While in jail, Ah Quan meets a mysterious fellow inmate who sends Ah Quan visions of alternate realities. After learning that his son might be in peril, Ah Quan breaks out in order to save his family.

In a Netflix press release, writer/director Sam Quah says working with Netflix has allowed him, like so many other creators, to bring his true vision to the screen without interference from executives:

It’s been a pleasure working with IFA Media and global streaming platform Netflix, with all parties having shared the same visions for the concept throughout the process. The trust and respect given have allowed for me and the writers a great freedom to work and, in the process, also allowed for the vision of the show to expand and grow.

Quah’s previous short film The Free Man made the shortlist for the Oscars Live Action Shorts Category and was nominated for numerous international film awards. Bardo marks Quah’s first foray into feature- or series-length films.

Bardo does not yet have a release date.