Young director Yang Chao's feature film Lücheng (Journey) is being shot in four Chinese provinces.
It is the first feature directed by 28-year-old Yang, who has worked as a documentary maker since graduating in directing from the Beijing Film Academy in 1997.
His short Dai bi (Run Away) won the Cinéfondation third prize at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival.
Aiming for the 2003 Cannes feature-film competition, Journey stars rising young actor Geng Le and actress Chang Jieping. The producer is Tian Zhuangzhuang, one of China's pre-eminent Fifth Generation of film directors and classmate of Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige at the Beijing Film Academy. It is funded by the Century Hero Movie Company Ltd and Beida Huayi Entertainment Company.
Geng has risen rapidly in fame for his performances in director Jiang Wen's In the Heat of the Sun, Hong Kong director Mabel Cheung Yuen-ting's Beijing Rocks and last year's popular youth film Spring Subway.
As the title suggests, Journey is a kind of road movie. The story of young couple Sixu and Xiaoping unfolds on the road while its protagonists embark upon certain inner journeys and end up enlightened or transformed in one way or another, according to director Yang.
High-school student Sixu (Geng) and his girlfriend Xiaoping (Chang) leave home to pursue a supposedly free life after each failing the national college entrance examinations three times.
During their long journey, they meet various people and witness social changes. Their own thoughts and emotions also change gradually.
In the end, Sixu goes back to prepare for his fourth attempt to pass the college entrance examinations, while Xiaoping continues to explore her unknown future alone.
Director Yang divides the entire journey into three parts: on a bus and ship, on a bicycle and on foot. The inner journey gets harder and harder while the warm family life of the couple keeps flashing in their minds.
"The story, the cinematography and the young actors' performances are all perfectly delicate," commented New Film, one of China's most popular movie magazines.
(China Daily January 15, 2003)