Joan Chen and Zhao Tao will star in Jia Zhangke's 24 City, which will begin shooting at the end of March. They will portray female factory workers in the 1980s.

Also starring in the film are TV veterans Chen Jianbin and Lu Liping, according to Jia, who is now in Chengdu city in south-west China, preparing for the shooting.

The $2.8m (RMB20m) film is jointly financed by Jia's Xstream Pictures, Shanghai Film Group, Chinese Real Estate developer China Resource Land (CR Land) and Japan's Office Kitano.

The story is set in the defunct engine factory, 42th Factory in Chengdu City, and tells the story of three generations of female workers who were seen as the 'factory flowers' - the most beautiful girls in the factory.

Joan Chen will be playing the second-generation factory flower, whose story will be set in the 1980s. Zhao Tao plays the present-day factory flower and Lu Liping plays her grandmother and the factory flower in the 1960s.

There will be an individual segment for Chen Jianbin, who will portray a worker recounting the rise and fall of the factory.

The film is co-written by Jia and Zhai Yongming, a Chengdu-based author. Cinematography will be shared by Yu Li-wai and Wang Yu (The Go Master). Yu is now preparing to shoot his own Brazil-China co-production project Plastic City.

24 City is also a documentary project recording the past and present of the 42th Factory. The land of the factory site is now owned by CR Land, one of the film's investors, to develop into a large-scale apartment compound named 24 City.

Shooting of the documentary began last March and is now in the final stages according to Jia.