‘Moses on the Plain’ Among First Chinese Films To Finish Shooting Since COVID-19

Moses on the Plain,” a film executive produced by art house director Diao Yinan, is among the first notable Chinese titles to have completed shooting since the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

It stars A-listers Zhou Dongyu, who has enjoyed a further rise on the back of last year’s breakout teen drama “Better Days,” and Liu Haoran, the young star of the “Detective Chinatown” franchise. The third installment of “Chinatown” was postponed from its Chinese New Year debut in January because of coronavirus and is one of the most hotly anticipated blockbusters awaiting a future release.

Diao’s crime thriller “Black Coal, Thin Ice” won the Golden Bear for best film at the Berlin Intl. Film Festival in 2014. His “Wild Goose Lake” debuted in competition at Cannes last year.

On the social media platform Weibo, producer Dun He (“Send Me To The Clouds”) explained that filming was stopped early on in the shoot due to coronavirus on January 26, the second day of the Chinese new year, and “wrapped amidst many difficulties” after resuming again in March. 

Towards the end of production in mid-May, a new outbreak of coronavirus occurred in the shooting location Jilin, leading the region to impose lockdown measures anew. What was originally expected to be a 70-something day shoot was cut down to around 50 days, Chinese reports said.

“It hasn’t been easy, and the struggles were endless,” Dun wrote, adding optimistically, “See you in theaters.”

Chinese cinemas have been shut since late January, with officials giving no clear indication when exactly they might re-open, although the rest of China’s economy is back up and running.

“Moses on the Plain” is set in China’s hardscrabble, industrial northeast. It tells the story of a man (Liu) investigating the murder of a taxi driver, only to find a childhood friend (Zhou) may be involved. It is based on a popular novel of the same name by writer Shuang Xuetao, who worked on the film as art director.

The movie is directed by Zhang Ji, a young director of photography making his directorial debut after being nominated for a Golden Horse Award for best cinematography in 2014 for “North by Northeast,” a detective story set in the same region.

Currently, the film division of the Maoyan online ticketing platform, Beijing Wishart Media and Shanghai Turan Film Company are listed as producers backing the title.