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Jia Zhangke Epic, ‘We Shall Be All’ to Be Sold by France’s MK2 (EXCLUSIVE)

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French shingle MK2 will handle international sales on “We Shall Be All,” a new epic from Jia Zhangke, China’s pre-eminent indie film director.

Announced last year, the film has been a labor of love over more than 20 years for Jia. His previous works, including “Platform,” “Unknown Pleasures” and “Still Life,” have chronicled the rapid economic development of China and its impact on people and society. His most recent completed feature, “Ash Is Purest White,” appeared in competition in Cannes in 2018.

While ostensibly about the evolving relationships of a handful of couples, “We Shall Be All,” consists of an assembly of footage that Jia and a minimalist crew have stopped, started and picked up again on multiple occasions since 2001.

“I travelled with actors and a cameraman to shoot, without a script, without any obvious story, and didn’t really think about what to do with it until during the pandemic, which gave me time,” Jia tells Variety. “This is a work of fiction, but I have applied many documentary methods. In assembling the different incidents that we’d filmed, I began to discover the storyline and have subsequently gone back and added the necessary structure.

“It was fascinating to see how these [fictional] couples’ relationships changed as the world around them evolved. It struck me profoundly, too, how their faces had changed and helped me realize what cinema really is,” Jia says. “I also discovered that while we have preserved images quite successfully, we have lost many of the sounds of past society.”

While the first two-thirds of the new film are about the past, the last section is contemporary, and Jia shot another 60 days for that. He is now in the early stages of post-production and says that he does not intend to rush to meet any particular festival deadline.

Given that “We Shall Be All” will contain more special effects than any previous Jia title, it is not expected to be completed before the autumn.

The film is produced by Jia’s regular partners including Casper Liang Jiayan and Ichiyama Shozo. It also features Jia’s wife, actor and muse, Zhao Tao.

MK2 has previously handled sales of five films by Jia, including “Ash,” “Mountains May Depart” and “A Touch of Sin.”