France’s Wild Bunch will be in charge of international sales and ARP will do French distribution for Chinese writer-director Gu Xiaogang’s debut feature, “Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains,” the closing film at this year’s Critics’ Week at Cannes, the production team told Variety. The film does not yet have a distributor for China.
“Dwelling” is the first Chinese film in eight years to be selected to compete in the category. It is also only the tenth Chinese film to have made it into this portion of the official selection. It will be in the running for the Camera d’Or prize awarded to the best first feature film playing in one of the festival’s sections.
Gu, 30, studied costume design and marketing in university before he discovered filmmaking and began making documentaries. “Dwelling” is intended to be the first of what he calls his “scroll painting trilogy,” which will also be called “A Thousand Miles Along the Eastern Yangtze.”
The 150-minute feature was shot over the course of two years, during which he tried to capture the changing of the seasons along the river in his hometown in the Fuyang district of Hangzhou city, where the film is set.
Gu went back there to do research for his writing in 2016, but then found himself inspired. “Fuyang was always a quiet and uninspiring small town in my memories, but the longer I stayed, the more I was surprised by the constant transformations happening there.”
As home to the headquarters of tech giant Alibaba and numerous other tech startups, Hangzhou is now often referred to as China’s Silicon Valley. It was designated as the site of the 2016 G-20 meeting, which brought about a wave of changes to the city just as Gu returned, making him realize that “every ordinary person and every average family has a profound connection to their surroundings, which inevitably affects their inner world,” he said in a statement.
He calls his film a “contemporary scroll painting” that seeks to capture their stories. Its English title is drawn from the English name of a 14th-century masterwork by the acclaimed landscape painter Huang Gongwang, a black-and-white ink painting that depicts the huts and wooded mountains of the Fuyang region.
Set against the backdrop of the Fuchun river, the movie tells the story of the daily life of a three-generational family in which the elderly mother becomes demented after suffering an unexpected stroke at a birthday celebration. Her four sons each take a turn caring for her, swapping duties at the change of each season, even as they struggle with family issues of their own.
The film was jointly produced by Factory Gate Films, Dadi Film and Qu Jing Pictures. Founded in 2017 and based in Beijing, Factory Gate works with both arthouse and commercial titles but puts an emphasis on fostering new talent. It is currently in the midst of developing more than 20 projects, including “Stars Await Us,” from director Zhang Dalei, whose 2016 “The Summer is Gone” was nominated for Golden Horse Awards for both best new director and original screenplay; Tibetan director Pema Tseden’s next feature “Balloon”; “Damp Season,” helmed by newcomer Gao Ming; and “The Return,” by Fang Liang, which is currently in post-production. It also was behind last summer’s “Mr. Big,” directed by Tong Shengjia, which was released theatrically but made just $190,000 (RMB1.3 million), despite good user reviews.
Qu Jing Pictures was founded in 2015 as a screenwriting company, but now has branched out into development and co-production of web and TV series as well. It wrote series such as the Netflix- and Mango TV-produced “Tennis Prince” and the iQiyi-produced “Ping Pong” and “With You.”
Dadi Film is a division of Dadi Media, which owns one of China’s largest cinema chains. It invests and produces a number of films each year and is actively seeking creative screenplays and directors.