China Film Co-production Corp (CFCC) and Japanese film promotion body UniJapan signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on film collaboration at the Shanghai International Film Festival on Friday (June 22)

The two sides also announced the shooting of a Sino-Japanese period drama entitled Zen.

The seven-point MoU is seen as the first step towards a film co-production agreement between the two countries at a government level. It covers initiatives such as hosting workshops for Sino-Japanese filmmaking collaboration; providing support and information for filmmakers on both sides, and the marketing of films co-produced by China and Japan.

Zen , a film to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the normalisation of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, is a co-production between Japan 's Hayate LLC and China 's Talent International Media.

The film is about Japanese monk Dogen bringing Zen Buddhism from China to Japan during the social upheaval of the Kamakura period. It also covers the suffering that he and his temple endured, due to the severe competition at the time among different Buddhist sects.

Chinese director Huo Jianqi (Nuan, A Time To Love) will direct from a script by Norio Osada. Chinese-Japanese actress Hayashi Tan-tan leads the cast. The budget of the film has not been announced, although it's understood that it's a mid-sized production of around $1.3m (RMB10m).

Shooting of the film will start in October in both China and Japan and release is scheduled for autumn 2008.

* Singapore and South Korea have also inked a government-to-government agreement to facilitate TV co-productions. Under the agreement, TV programmes made by producers or broadcasters of the two countries are considered national productions which are qualified as local content and eligible for local financial schemes. The agreement covers animation, dramas and documentaries. BY SILVIA WONG