At long last, after years of development, Abderrahmane Sissako is set to embark on his first feature since 2014’s Timbuktu. The Mauritanian-born Malian director’s next work is The Perfumed Hill, which will begin shooting this month.

As reported by Variety, the romantic drama, scripted by the director and Kessen Tall, will star Nina Melo (Girlhood), Han Chang (Little Big Women), and Ke-Xi Wu (Nina Wu) in an ambitious story set “between China’s tea hills, the Ivory Coast, and Cape Verde.” Picked up for a U.S. release by Cohen Media Group and Gaumont in France, the project has come to TIFF for buyers, and thus an expanded synopsis has arrived:

The movie follows the journey of Joice, who leaves the Ivory Coast to start a new life in Guangzhou, China, after saying “no” on her wedding day. She finds a job at a tea boutique owned by Cai, a Chinese man, in the vibrant region of Guangzhou, known as the “Chocolate City.” In the secrecy of the back shop, Cai decides to initiate Joice to the tea ceremony and through the teaching of this ancient art, their relationship slowly turns into tender and passionate love.

Inspired by his discovery of a Afro-Chinese couple’s restaurant where the film draws its title from, Sissako said, “All year round, thousands of Africans come there from all over the continent. It is the cosmopolitan setting par excellence where African languages mingle with Mandarin, different dishes influence and blend with each other, business is essential, disregarding racial barriers of rejection, and, inevitably, bonds are forged, imported, exported, and travel.”

The Perfumed Hill is about an awakening of senses, the weaving of African and Chinese cultures and the relations between the two continents, told through this intimate love story,” added Alexis Cassanet at Gaumont.”

With cinematographer Aymerick Pilarski, composer Amine Bouhafa, and editor Nadia Ben Rachid also part of the crew, expect a 2023 Cannes premiere.

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