Hong Kong director Johnnie To has started shooting triaddrama Election - the first project inwhich his production company Milkyway Image has made an investment - andannounced that the $6.4m (HK$50m) production will be made as two films.

To expects the contemporary drama, which traces a democraticelection within a triad society, to have a total running time of around fourhours. The first film will follow a large group of characters while the secondwill hone in on just a few.

The ensemble cast includes To regulars such as Simon Yam andLam Suet along with other stars including Tony Leung Ka-fai, Nick Cheung andLouis Koo.

According to To, the film will depict the triad world asrealistically as possible without making concessions to censors in either Chinaor Hong Kong. "My goal is to present the real culture of triad society inthe present day," To told ScreenDaily.com. "What does it mean to be a triad in 2004 and what kind offuture does triad society have'"

To has conducted in-depth research into the history of thetriads, their ceremonies and customs, and says the film will also examine howthey've co-operated with the Chinese government since Hong Kong'sreturn to the mainland.

Under Hong Kong censorship rules, films showing triadceremonies, rituals and hand signs are only permitted in Category III films(persons aged18 and above). Due to its subject matter and violence, To fullyexpects Election to be rated CategoryIII in Hong Kong.

The film marks the first time that Milkyway has invested inone of its productions, despite having produced about 30 films since themid-1990s. The company, which listed on the Growth Enterprise Market in 2002,is co-financing with China Star Entertainment. China Star will distribute inChinese-speaking territories with Milkyway retaining the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, To has a busy year ahead next year during whichhe'll complete The Sparrow starring Simon Yam for Universe Entertainmentalong with projects for both China Star and Media Asia.