Wang Bing’s film The Ditch (Le Fosse) is the surprise film addition to this year’s Venice Film Festival line up, bringing the total number of titles vying for the Golden Lion up to 24.

The film is a Hong Kong, France and Belgium co-production, international sales are being handled by the Wild Bunch.

The film is a documentary-like project set at the end of the 1950s when the Chinese government condemned thousands of citizens, considered dissidents for a large variety of reasons, to forced labor camps. The picture stars Lu Ye, Lian Renjun, Xu Cenzi and Yang Haoyu.

For the film, Wang says he interviewed “many survivors of Jiabiangou Camp and learned from them about the realities of their time there.”

The screenplay was based on the survivor’s stories and the book Goodbye, Jiabiangou by Yang Xianhui.

The documentary-esque theme draws reminders to Venice’s 2006 surprise entry – Still Life – that went on to win the Golden Lion for director Jia Zhangke, and which was about the dislocation of the peoples of an ancient village in order to build a dam and avert flooding.

The Venice Festival runs through Sept 11.