Li makes commercial debut with thriller

China’s top femme helmer, Li Shaohong, has started shooting psychological thriller “The Door,” her first foray into commercial cinema.

Her pic “Sheng sie ji” (Stolen Life) won the narrative feature award at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival.

New film’s billed as a ghost story without a ghost — spectral pics are still hard to get past the censors. Li said the story’s modern take on the traditional Chinese horror story was what drew her to the project.

“Doors not only keep things in but also let a lot slip out,” she said. “Terror must come from inside the mind, and there are dark corners in everyone’s heart that nobody wants to touch.”

Budgeted at $3.75 million, pic is being co-produced by Chinese media giant Stellar Megamedia and Rosat Prods. Lensing began Wednesday in Chongqing in the western province of Sichuan. Chen Kun and Huang Jue star.

With production due to end in June, “The Door” is tipped to screen in time for Halloween. Pic was scripted by recent USC writing graduate Simon Weining Sun from Zhou Dedong’s online novel “Intersection.”

Producer is Li Xiaowan. Cinematographer is Li’s husband and regular collaborator, Zeng Nianping.

Li is the sole woman among the prestigious band of top helmers known as the Fifth Generation. “The Door” is her eighth feature and a departure from arthouse movies such as “Blush,” which won her the Silver Bear at Berlin in 1995.

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