'Dwelling in the Funchun Mountains' was originally the title of a legendary, 15th-century scroll by painter Huang Gongwang. Gu Xiaogang's calm, yet captivating debut was also visually inspired by the constrained humanism of Taiwanese masters such as Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien. Like a scroll which can only be seen bit by bit, the 150-minute film depicts a year in the life of the Yu Family (grandmother, four sons and all their children and dependents) in Fuyang, providing a panoramic view of the many societal changes affecting Chinese provincial towns.
Gu used personal loans to start filming in his home town before the indie start-up Factory Gate joined in. The complexity and consistent production design are all the more surprising, given the fact that the maker has never been to film school. His choice to solely use non-professionals as his cast is entirely convincing.