The screenplay is adapted from Chinese author Aimi’s novel of the same name.

Chinese director Zhang Yimou is now shooting his new film project Hawthorn Tree Forever, a drama set in the 1970s during the Cultural Revolution period. Beijing-based Beijing New Picture Film Co and Hong Kong’s Edko Films will co-finance and co-produce the film. Edko Films will also handle international sales for the film.

Shooting started today in Yichang county of the Hubei Province in central China. The story is adapted from Chinese author Aimi’s novel of the same title and is scripted by writer and filmmaker Yin Lichuan and two screenwriters Gu Xiaobai and Xiao Mei. The story follows an innocent but repressed romance between a city girl of condemned political background and a young man from a rural village. According to Beijing New Picture, the film will mark Zhang’s return to pure drama as well as a theme related to the Cultural Revolution. Zhang’s last film A Woman, a Gun, a Noodle Shop was a suspense comedy, and his recent films had been big-budgeted period drams such as Curse of the Golden Flower (2007). Zhang Yimou’s last drama about the Cultural Revolution period is his 1994 film To Live, starring Gong Li and Ge You.

Cast for the young couple in the film are not announced yet, but according to Beijing New Picture, both actors would be new, virtually unknown actors who are still drama school students. Confirmed cast are Li Xuejian, Sa Rina, Lu Liping and Sun Haiyin.

Shooting is expected to take three months, and the film’s mainland China release date is scheduled for early October.

Meanwhile, Zhang is also preparing the shooting of a bigger-budgeted historical drama Thirteen Girls inJinling City, which he plans to start shooting by the end of the year. Adapted by well-known author Yen Geling’s novel, the story is about thirteen prostitutes who sacrificed their lives to save a group of convent girls in Nanjing during the massacre of Nanjing in 1937. Edko Films is also involved in this project and will handle international sales of the film.