Chinese director Gu Xiaogang on Monday announced the follow-up to his well-received first feature “Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains” — the closing night selection for Cannes Critics’ Week in 2019 — entitled “Dwelling by the West Lake.”

The film will be produced by Chuxiao Pictures and executive produced by Chen Caiyun, off a script from novelist Guo Shuang. Mao Dun Literature Prize-winning writer and tea expert Wang Xufeng will serve as “literary consultant.”

“Those who have seen ‘Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains’ know that the film ends with the words ‘End of Volume One,’ and so I often get asked if Volume Two will be its sequel. But in fact the second volume is an entirely new story taking place in an entirely new environment,” Gu said in a statement published by the Qianjiang Evening News.

The new story is set in Gu’s hometown of Hangzhou, capital of coastal Zhejiang province, amid the city’s iconic West Lake park and the surrounding tea hills, famous for producing Longjing Dragon Well Tea.

“This will be a movie related to tea,” said Gu, stating that the hoped to “deeply penetrate traditional Chinese culture” and “discover [China’s] own form of film aesthetics” with his work. He explained that the Chinese character for tea inspired the film’s poetic Chinese language title “草木人间.”

The film is a re-imagining of the widely known Chinese Buddhist folk story about a boy named Mulian rescuing his mother from hell, considered to be a parable about the virtues of filial piety. When Mulian’s mother is sent to hell because of misdeeds during her lifetime, Mulian breaks into the underworld to save her, ultimately succeeding after several lifetimes worth of efforts.

Gu will place this all in modern context, through the story of a mother named Moss Flower and her son Mulian.

“In terms of genre, the film adds some crime elements to a warm family drama. [I hope to] translate the classic legend of mother and son using current social realist themes,” he said.

Gu’s breakthrough came at China’s FIRST Film Festival in 2019, where his debut “Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains” won him best film and best director.

He’s been careful to consider his next steps in wake of that success.

“As I grow as a director, I ask myself, what kind of movies do I want to make with my team going forward? When I think about it for a second, it’s films with a certain sense of warmth,” he said.

“Although I have some uncontrollable ambitions, my biggest wish in the end is simply to make progress compared to the last movie.”

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