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In a fascinating blend of cross-cultural storytelling, acclaimed husband-wife directing duo Ryuji Otsuka and Huang Ji, known for their previous works “Stonewalling” and “Egg and Stone,” have garnered international support for their upcoming cinematic endeavor, “A Woman Builds.” This marks their fourth feature film project, which promises to be a compelling exploration of female empowerment, personal freedom, and societal change.
The narrative of “A Woman Builds” centers around a Chinese woman thrust into an unforeseen life-altering situation. Separated from her Japanese husband and their daughter due to the pandemic, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery. What sets this tale apart is her unconventional response to newfound freedom – seeking solace in a unique massage parlor to satisfy her intimate desires and daringly deciding to construct a house in her hometown, despite her husband’s dissent.
The inspiration for this captivating storyline sprouted from Huang Ji’s contemplation during the pandemic disruptions. She pondered the idea of building a house for herself in China, a notion that eventually germinated into a powerful exploration of women in their forties and beyond. These women, as the directorial pair explains, are grappling with the current course of their lives and pondering their futures as they age. They yearn for greater autonomy and agency in defining their happiness, free from the confines of traditional roles as wives, mothers, and family caretakers. This universal theme of longing for personal space and self-determination resonates with audiences globally.
Ryuji Otsuka and Huang Ji’s production company, YGP-Films, is joined by two prominent players in the film industry to bring “A Woman Builds” to fruition: Akanga Film Asia, a prolific Singapore-based producer and co-production firm led by Fran Borgia, and Island X Pictures from Taiwan, led by veteran festival programmer Kuo Ming-Jung. This collaboration brings together diverse talents and expertise from different corners of the world, enriching the project with their collective creative vision.
Principal photography for “A Woman Builds” is set to commence in China during the last quarter of 2024, making it one of the highly anticipated projects to watch. The film will make its pitch at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Project Promotion (GHFPP) in November, having previously been introduced at an early stage during last year’s Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum.
Akanga Film Asia, known for its involvement in critically acclaimed films such as Cannes Critics’ Week Grand Prize winner “Tiger Stripes” and the Busan competition title “Oasis of Now,” brings its track record of success to this venture.
Island X Pictures, a recently established company under the leadership of Kuo Ming-Jung, is also simultaneously developing other noteworthy projects, including Rex Ren’s “The Unshakable Destiny” from Hong Kong and Lee Yi-Shan’s debut film “Chewing Gum” from Taiwan, which has been selected for this year’s FPP.
Huang Ji and Ryuji Otsuka first garnered international acclaim with their film “Egg and Stone,” which clinched the Rotterdam 2012 Tiger Award. Their subsequent work, “The Foolish Bird,” earned a special mention at its premiere during Berlinale Generation 14+ in 2017. “Stonewalling,” their latest release, premiered in the Venice Days section last year, completing their so-called ‘sex trilogy.’ Their films have enjoyed successful festival runs, with the entire trilogy featured at Film at Lincoln Center.
Fran Borgia, the producer at Akanga Film Asia, commended the duo’s distinctive storytelling approach. He praised their meticulous attention to character nuances, gestures, and the rich mise-en-scène that infuses their films with depth and authenticity. Borgia also highlighted their unique cinematic sensibility and their ability to provide a fresh perspective on Chinese life and society.
Kuo Ming-Jung from Island X Pictures emphasized that while “A Woman Builds” primarily delves into a woman’s personal journey, it simultaneously addresses broader economic changes unfolding in contemporary China. This dual narrative layering promises to offer audiences a thought-provoking and culturally resonant cinematic experience.
As the anticipation for “A Woman Builds” builds, it serves as a testament to the power of storytelling to transcend borders and cultures, shedding light on universal human experiences and aspirations. Huang Ji and Ryuji Otsuka’s collaboration with international partners underscores the global appeal of their unique brand of cinema, one that melds artistry and social commentary, inviting audiences to reflect on the evolving roles of women in an ever-changing world.