Chinese film The Story Of Er Mei (Jingzhe) that features in Berlinale's Panorama Special, could be a dry run for a big-budget epic that has eluded a number of China's top-name directors.

Jingzhe's director Wang Quanan, star Yu Nan and the powerful Xi'an Film Studio Corp plan to re-team to make Bai Lu Yuan (literally Plains Of The White Deer), a story set in North West China and running from the fall of the last emperor in 1911 through to the Cultural Revolution.

The story would be an adaptation of the once-banned novel by Chen Zhong Chi, which has been mooted previously by Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou.

The screenplay is by Lu Wei, who wrote Chen's Farewell My Concubine and Zhang's To Live. Xi'an would probably bring in international finance and distribution partners.

Columbia TriStar Film Production Asia, would be an obvious candidate, having previously made Warriors Of Heaven And Earth with Xi'an.

Speaking this week of Jingzhe, Wang said: "My intention was to make a film worth watching, but one that also carries a message. I'm not trying to make a political statement, but rather look at people and real lives. This film would have been banned a few years ago as it deals with rural issues in this fashion."

An English and French speaker, Yu is also set to become a star. She recently appeared in Karim Dridi's Fureur for France's Gaumont and reportedly has been approached for a role in the mooted sequel to Basic Instinct.

On the eve of the Berlin film festival Jingzhe's sales company, the Hong Kong-Los Angeles-based Film Library also picked up Rainbow which is set against the backdrop of the Japanese occupation of China. It is directed by Gao Xiaosong.