Ryuji Otsuka and Huang Ji, the husband and wife, Japanese-Chinese directing duo behind “Stonewalling” and “Egg and Stone” have secured multi-national backing for their upcoming fourth film project “A Woman Builds.”
The film will depict a Chinese woman forced to live apart from her Japanese husband and their daughter during the pandemic and learning to enjoy the newfound freedom of a pseudo single life. She finds a unique massage parlor to satisfy her sexual needs and decides to build a house back in her home village, despite her husband’s disapproval.
“The idea started when Huang considered building a house for herself in China after the disruption of the pandemic,” the pair said. “From that point, we start reflecting on contemporary women in their forties and older, they worry about the lives they are living now and their lives when they grow old. They want to have more control of their lives, have more say on what happiness means to them instead of being defined only by their responsibilities to their husbands, children and families. They yearn for their own space and time.”
The pair’s production company YGP-Films has been joined by prolific Singapore-based producer and co-production firm Akanga Film Asia and Island X Pictures from Taiwan.
With principal photography scheduled on location in China in the last quarter of 2024, the project will participate at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Project Promotion (GHFPP) in November. It was previously introduced at an early stage in last year’s Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum.
Akanga, led by producer Fran Borgia, was recently involved in this year’s Cannes Critics’ Week Grand Prize winner “Tiger Stripes” and Busan competition title “Oasis of Now.”
Island X is a recently started company headed by veteran festival programmer Kuo Ming-Jung from Taiwan. Current projects in development also include Rex Ren’s “The Unshakable Destiny” from Hong Kong and Lee Yi-Shan’s debut “Chewing Gum” from Taiwan, which is also selected for this year’s FPP.
Huang and Ryuji first attracted attention with their Rotterdam 2012 Tiger Award winner “Egg and Stone.” They followed this with “The Foolish Bird,” which bagged a special mention on its premiere at Berlinale Generation 14+ in 2017. “Stonewalling,” which premiered last year in the Venice Days section, completed their so-called ‘sex trilogy.” Their decidedly art house works have enjoyed successful festival tours, with the full trilogy programmed at Film at Lincoln Center.
“Huang and Otsuka have a very unique approach to storytelling and filmmaking that is full of details in the nuances, the gestures of their characters and a rich mise-en-scene. Their strong cinematic sensibility and interpretation of Chinese livelihood is remarkable,” said Borgia.
“While at the core of ‘A Woman Builds’ is a woman’s personal journey, the story addresses the greater economic changes that are happening in China now and that helps audiences to understand its people’s psyche,” said Kuo.