Zhang Yimou has a starring role at AFAs

His cinematic influence celebrated at awards ceremony

HONG KONG -- The depth and reach of Zhang Yimou's cinematic influence was honored on Monday night in Hong Kong, where the Chinese directing legend was cited for his Outstanding Contribution to Asian Cinema at the fourth Asian Film Awards.

Though Zhang's most recent film, the Coen Brothers-inspired Berlinale entry "A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop," was deemed by many a critical and commercial letdown, loyal fans and admiring critics agreed his past achievements warranted the nod.

From his Berlin Golden Bear-winning 1987 debut "Red Sorghum" to his runaway commercial successes "House of Flying Daggers" (2004), and "Hero" (2002) (one of the few foreign-language films to debut at the top of the U.S. boxoffice), filmmakers from around the world said they owed the 58-year-old Zhang a great debt.

"He was a pioneering influence on all of us, somebody who set milestones in filmmaking at every step of his career," said Hong Kong director Peter Chan ("Bodyguards and Assassins"). "Zhang was always ahead of the curve -- from revealing a China nobody knew back in the '80s to finding a way to get around tough state censorship and the commercial restrictions of the government."

More Filmart coverage  
As a young man from Xian in central China, the son of a Nationalist Army major who fled to Taiwan after the Communists rise to power in China in 1949, Zhang was forced to suspend his studies at the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution in 1966.

During the doldrums of the era, when the revolution upturned hundreds of millions of lives, Zhang worked in a textile mill and took up photography, a pursuit that presaged his enrollment in the Beijing Film Academy in 1978 at age 27. There, the students were shown films by European, Japanese and American art directors far more than any of their predecessors, including the works of Tarkovsky, Antonioni, Scorsese, Truffaut, Kurosawa, Kubrick, Malick and Alain Resnais.

Zhang graduated from the cinematography department in 1982 at the same time as classmates Chen Kaige and Tian Zhuangzhuang received degrees in film directing. They are often referred to collectively as the Fifth Generation.

"We're all huge fans of Zhang Yimou," said Indian film producer Aseem Chhabra ("Road, Movie"). "From 'Ju Dou' and 'Raise the Red Lantern,' his work shaped our sense of the importance of Chinese cinema."

In recent years, Zhang's career has moved beyond moviemaking to include the staging of massive, choreographed outdoor performances, including the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The honor was presented to Zhang at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center by the members of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, an independent non-profit, non-government organization.
comments powered by Disqus