In the five years since Ash Is Purest White, Jia Zhang-ke has directed one documentary, Swimming Out Till The Sea Turns Blue, but we’ve heard many rumors of another narrative feature in the works. Earlier this year, word arrived of a new project filed with the China Film Administration and now the first substantial details are in.

According to Variety, the Chinese director has been working on We Shall Be All on and off for the past 22 years, with the initial shooting taking place in 2001. Co-written by Jia and Wan Jiahuan, and of course starring Zhao Tao, the rest of the film will be shot later this year. With the sweeping story taking place across the first two decades of the 21st century, the film will capture a “dismantling of dystopia” as we follow “how a Chinese woman lives to herself in silence, celebrating the prosperous Belle Epoque with songs and dance.”

Back in 2016 around the release of Mountains May Depart, Jia may have given us a hint at the early footage he shot, saying,” During 1999 and 2000 was the time I had my first DV camera, so I would usually, aimlessly go about shooting footage. This is a habit I still maintain up to this day, and I have a lot of raw footage using different types of cameras and captures throughout the years. I might have a future plan of editing this footage and making it into a film. Since the story starts in 1999, I need to recreate and reenact that particular era, and, for research purpose, I thought, ‘Well, I have footage from 1999. I might as well take a look at how people look, at how people talk at the time.’ When I revisited that footage, I realized it’s very affecting and I might as well include them in the first episode as well.”

He added, “So I do think that footage really captures the psychological state of the youth or general public at the time, and I think it would be a great idea to not only juxtapose but integrate them. On the one hand, you have the actual documentary-type of reality, and then you have the fictional, creative reality. By combining these two, you create the realities that these characters can somehow position themselves in.”

No release plans were confirmed yet for We Shall Be All, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see it show up at Cannes 2024.

No more articles